NHS won’t use Apple-Google model to track Covid-19

The UK body has opted for a centralised approach instead, like Australia has

Apple and Google are working on a ‘decentralised’ approach to tracking the spread of Covid-19 where the contact tracing matches will happen on the users’ device. UK’s NHS wants to go the ‘centralised’ way.
Apple and Google are working on a ‘decentralised’ approach to tracking the spread of Covid-19 where the contact tracing matches will happen on the users’ device. UK’s NHS wants to go the ‘centralised’ way. (Pixabay)

Apple and Google are expected to release their contact tracing tech to developers today. However, UK's National Health Services (NHS) has said that it will not be using the Apple-Google model, according to a BBC report.

Apple and Google are working on a 'decentralised' approach to tracking the spread of Covid-19 where the contact tracing matches will happen on the users' device. NHS wants to opt for a 'centralised' model where the matches and alerts will happen via a computer server.

For Apple and Google, the decentralised approach is how they plan to protect the users' privacy from both authorities and hackers. BBC reports that NHS believes that a centralised model will allow easier system audit when new scientific evidence comes in.

A centralised approach will eat more power. The Google-Apple solution lets contact tracing happen in the background, whereas for the model the UK wants to adopt, the app will have to be "woken up" every time the device detects another device nearby that is running the same software.

By choosing a centralised approach, the NHS is aligning more with Australia instead ofits EU counterparts. Australia's app uses a mix of Bluetooth and stored contact data on both the app and servers. Germany, on the other hand, has switched its stance and is now pursuing a decentralised model, as are Austria, Estonia and Switzerland.

The European Commission and the EU's data protection watchdog support both models but note that the differences aren't entirely clear, reports the EUobserver. In either case, the challenge will be acquiring enough widespread adoption for the apps to be effective.