/ Technology

No, the government hasn’t installed a coronavirus app on your phone

You may have spotted a coronavirus settings screen appearing on your phone over the weekend, but it isn’t an app, and it’s nothing to worry about. Here’s why.

Have you seen friends over the weekend posting on social media that a COVID-19 contact tracing app has been sneakily installed on your phone without consent? 

If so, you were probably worried: nobody likes the thought of something being installed on their phone without their knowledge or agreement.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

Six years ago, Apple and U2 were shocked at the backlash when as a giveaway the grandiose Irish band’s album Songs of Innocence was dropped directly into iTunes users’ libraries.

It turns out that people like to know and control what’s on their devices – who’d have thought it?

However, the good news is that you haven’t had a contact tracing app installed by stealth on your phone. But you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

New settings screen

What people are referring to is a new setting on both Android phones and iPhones for Covid-19 notifications:

It rather confusingly says ‘the app can notify you if you’ve been near someone who reported having COVID-19.’ Unsurprisingly, people have assumed this means that the setting is in fact an app.

But it’s not – there’s no need to worry.

You might have seen talk over the past few weeks about ‘the Google-Apple approach’, and it hasn’t helped that some aren’t checking in with tech experts, and have erroneously referred to this as ‘the Google-Apple app’.

So, to be absolutely clear: Google and Apple have not built an app and they’re not going to build an app.

What’s actually happened is that Google and Apple announced a few weeks ago that they would build a software framework – called an API (or Application Program Interface) – into Android and iOS that would allow contact-tracing apps made by health authorities and governments to work on mobile phones.

This has been controversial because Google and Apple’s approach only allows one way of contact tracing: their approach allows an app to use the Bluetooth on your phone to register which other phones you’ve been close to.

Then, if you choose to report that you’ve either got COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, the people whose phones were near yours can be alerted by their phones.

So, where’s the actual app then?

The app that had been built and was last week abandoned by the government would have uploaded your phone’s ID to a central server, where your contacts would be matched and from where alerts would have been sent.

Google and Apple decided that they would not allow this, and instead built this new software framework into their operating systems. This means the contact matching is done on your phone rather than on the central server.

Privacy advocates prefer the Google-Apple approach, saying that the app that NHSX – the digital arm of the NHS – built compromised privacy.

At the moment, there is no UK app that does contact tracing.

What you’re seeing on your phone is this new software framework that was pushed out in a routine update that will allow an NHS app to work.

Watch out for this fake NHS contact tracing text

When the new app is published to the App Store and Google Play, it will be up to you if you download and install it, and it will ask for permission to use Bluetooth on your phone.

It can’t work without that opt-in permission from you. So you have a double layer of protection: first, it will be your choice whether or not to install the app, and second, it will be your choice to grant it access to the functions it needs.

It’s a complicated story with many twists and turns and it’s not a surprise that people have been confused, but the bottom line is that this new screen is nothing to worry about.

Have you found a COVID-19 notification setting screen on your phone?
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Did you spot it on your phone? Were you concerned?

Comments
AMANDA CLEGG says:
22 June 2020

I have an older iphone6 which doesn’t have this installed. Suspect that it won’t support whatever is eventually released, as I can’t even use zoom on it now. 🙁

Charles Rooke says:
24 June 2020

In what way “out of support”? Mine has upgraded itself to iOS 12.4.7 with the covid support.

I found this vague statement: “Apple is targeting the broadest number of devices based on Bluetooth hardware support, suggesting iOS 12 may be updated, not just iOS 13” https://9to5mac.com/2020/04/13/iphone-and-android-covid-19-contact-tracing/ It looks as if Apple has updated iOS 12 after all.

Thanks Charles

Welwyn-user says:
25 June 2020

Surely this API is another way to turn on the bluetooth connection. Just for fun I clicked on “Turn On Bluetooth” button in the Covid Panel, discovered that the Turn Off Exposure Notifications did nothing and remained grey. Then used the standard Bluetooth settings to turn off Bluetooth.
Over to you Mr Hancock!
This API appears to have been very contentious (invasion of privacy) mainly in the USA also comments about GDPR.

The app is not yet available, as explained in the introduction. It’s all rather confusing at present but hopefully it will save lives.

The app, if up and running, might have had a field day on Bournemouth beach judging by the crowds who seem to have either no common sense, don’t care about their family’s, or anyone else’s, health, or don’t know what a metre is. A potential hot spot. Who should we blame this sort of behaviour on? Not the people themselves, surely…….

I am still being very careful because I don’t want to catch it and I don’t want to put my family at risk when they visit.

I agree, Malcolm. We have already seen examples of how ignoring social distancing can result in more infections.

Unless there is a good reason I will use the coronavirus app when it is available, but I’m continuing to keep well away from family and friends.

Wrong!

Why is an important app like this not designed to work on older OS versions? I have plenty of apps that work on my Samsung Galaxy S4 on Android 4.2.2

Phones should not be made obsolete in this way. I would have hoped Which? would be working against it to promote product sustainability, as they should with the smart products that lose functionality. My smart phone still works well and does all I want of it. I don’t want to throw it away and spend hundreds on a new one when that should be unnecessary.

I have just been using an old microwave oven (about 30 years old) and a vacuum cleaner (~ 20). I used to have a several appliances that were over 30 years old. A phone or computer is very different and it would not be wise to use one without an up to date security. I do believe that there should be an international agreement that dictates to manufacturers how long updates must be provided for phones and other computing products.

Perhaps Kate would write a Convo about this so that we can explore the issue. One of my concerns is that modern smart devices can lose functionality or even become a security risk.

Technology might move on but why can a government app not be designed to work on older phones. That will exempt many users from being protected.

Why can security updates not be applied to older phones. Is it impossible?

I am asking because I do not know 🙂

Thanks Kate. I remember you told us about your washing machine. Derek has a Zanussi that is 32.

Until we have legislation about the length of product support the best solution seems to be to choose a model that is early in its life cycle, perhaps waiting until any teething troubles have been dealt with. It would be good if we could be be told what Which? is pushing for and if there is anything that we as consumers could do to help.

I agree that the suport lifetime of Android is really poor.

Many of my ten year old PC’s can run Windows 10 and many legacy applications still work nicely there. During lockdown, I been spending a lot of time playing one particular Win95 era game that works nicely on XP (and also worked on Vista and W7 (I think)) but does not work on W10.

You have often mentioned prolonging the working life of computers by switching from Windows and MacOS to free open source software and presumably maintaining security. I wonder if there are any options to do something similar with phones and tablets.

Considering how much most people use their mobiles we are probably getting better value for money than most of the other products we buy but I’m determined that we should push for phones to be supported for as long as reasonably possible and for batteries that are user-replaceable without the need for a pentalobe screwdriver, a spudger and a heat gun to soften adhesive. 🙁 We also need access to OEM parts and service information.

This is rather like suggesting we get a lot of use out of our car, fridge, washing machine, tv…… so after a certain amount of use, miles, programme hours, we’ve had good value out of it and shoukd throw it away.

That is neither good for our pocket, good for the environment nor for the planet’s limited resources. It goes to the heart of bad consumerism and is something Which? should be fighting to stop. The promotion of “the latest technology” should be very carefully considered.

That is not what I said or implied, Malcolm. I have pointed out above that many products can carry on being used for years or even decades. There is no security risk. What concerns me is the move towards smart products, giving further opportunities for planned obsolescence.

I have also said that we should push (via Which? hopefully) for phones etc. to be designed to be supported for as long as reasonably possible.

I very much agree that we should stop promotion of phone contracts that provide a replacement phone after two years or less.

Misunderstanding, wavechange. I was simply picking up on your point about the value we get out of phones, but extending it to say despite this we should be able to use products as long as possible, and keep them functioning.

I am a bit disturbed by Kate’s view that I should ditch my smart phone that still does more or less all I need of it, because it is somehow “unsafe”. In my ignorance of such matters, given what I use my phone for, I have asked why I am at risk. At first sight I am disappointed that Which? appear accepting of the notion that these expensive devices might only be safe for 2 or 3 years and should then be discarded. I may learn otherwise but I do not think that Which? should be supporting that approach.

Elsewhere you have asked whether it is possible to use a smartphone safely for a limited range of functions such as web browsing and taking photos. It’s a good question and I’m very interested to learn the answer, as I said in my reply.

Debbie says:
23 June 2020

How do we know when our phone is at this stage and we need a new one?

If you know the operating system you can check online to see if it is still supported, Debbie. If you are no longer receiving updates it will not be secure and you will not be able to use the tracing facility when it becomes available.

Sue L says:
24 June 2020

Couldn’t agree more. This built in obsolescence particularly affects the elderly and vulnerable who can’t afford to splash out on the latest tech. I wish Which? would champion this cause, rather than tell us whether the latest Samsung or iPhone is ‘better’.

JJMMWG DuPree says:
25 June 2020

I suppose ‘out of support’ is a way of getting around the fact that something is not out of date but has been rendered useless by the manufacturer.

I really resent this. Apple and Google and all the rest know full well that hackers exist, they are selling products that are open to misuse, they should support them for as long as they work. The motor companies have to support their products for ten years, I’d say that’s the least the tech companies should offer given the money they’re making out of us (And the way that they’re doing it).

It would help the environment if all phones and other technology has standardised connections for power and charging. We managed to this for kettles many moons ago and it’s time we did it for all our tech devices.

JJMMWG DuPree says:
25 June 2020

Malcolm R: There is no reason why an app can’t be written for any device capable of using it, the problem is with the willingness of programmers to do so. The sad fact is that technology moves on and is frequently deliberately built to be incompatible with previous versions. ‘Built in obsolescence’ they call it.

Microsoft provided free upgrades to later versions of their operating system for as long as I remember. My Win 10 Acer laptop cost less than my Android 9 phone. Why are smartphone manufacturers allowed to sell phones that become a security risk after just a few years.

I think they get away with this because we are daft enough to buy them.

As a workaround, charging leads can come with micro USB, USB C and Lightning connectors. I have one of these and it works with any of my smartphones.

To get the facts completely correct, Microsoft have now stoped free support for all home OSes other than Windows 10 and 8. But they have provided free support for about 10 years with most of their OSes and additional paid for support for up to three more years, but only to large corporate users.

Some major patches were also released for XP after it was out of support for home use. It was good to see that.

If you buy nice cheap Andriod phones, costing no more than £100 each, you get good functionality and can probably also afford to replace them every two or three years.

On the other hand if you buy flagship phones costing £_EXPENSIVE each, then you probably deserve to have them supported for for 6 years, as Apple do with theirs (see:-https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/iphone/iphe3fa5df43/ios ).

Yes, but you will only get the maximum length of support if you buy phones when they are newly introduced.

Good point. I only paid £40 for my s/h iPhone SE, so I’m not too bothered about not getting 6 years of Apple support from my date of purchase. I do like the ready availabity of inexpensive 3rd party spares for these older iPhones but I don’t like their use of glued in components.

As a fogie I was quite happy with my 2006 £30 Nokia that made and received phone calls and texts and fitted the hands free cradle in my 2004 Espace. Both still work and are in use. It was only when my son passed on his Galaxy S4 that the joys of owning a smart phone were revealed.

I take DerekP’s point about buying a cheap Android and replacing it every 3 years from the point of view of my personal finances. However, this still means discarding a functioning device, further depleting the earth’s resources and adding just a little more to our waste mountain. If Win10 can be supported for 10 years without a hardware modification why cannot a phone?

An iPad I bought in 2012 works perfectly well put perhaps is no longer “safe” – I hadn’t thought to check. I wonder just how many people have had all their millions of older devices attacked and with what results?

If like me and many others you own the phone outright then you think twice before replacing it every few years. If you have it on the monthly plan, a small extra increment every month makes an upgrade easier. I have no need to access the internet on my smartphone so I have no intention of replacing it prematurely.

Is it practical to make smartphones that can be supported for years? Maybe someone could provide a link to an expert’s view on the subject or better still a recent review supported by evidence. Without this information we cannot have an informed debate.

I do believe that we should push manufacturers to provide support for as long as practical. Some brands seem to do better than others.

The forthcoming coronavirus app might be the first app that might be widely regarded as essential, and others might follow.

I suspect that it is not practical for mass produced, popular, smartphones to enjoy unlimited free support for life.

in similar vein, Nissan have failed to provide me with either free servicing or free petrol for the life of my secondhand Note. I am, of course, happy to pay separately for those items, because, without them, my car would not be of any practical use.

Given the current commercial reality, that cheaply purchased smartphones will only be supported for a few years, it would be nice to have some consumer protection regulations to make that much clearer at the time of purchase. For example, we already do this with “use by” dates on products such as both food and PPE.

Agreed. I wonder which organisation might push for these regulations with our approval and hopefully help.

When we are being pushed to do everything on our smartphones, they need to be supported longer than 4 years for the sake of the environment and for all those who cannot afford to keep replacing them or pay the escalating monthly fees.

Smartphone manufacturers must not be allowed to perpetrate fraud by not supporting their products leaving phones open to hacking.

To keep products going, I don’t mind paying for updates after say 6 years, but the costs must be reasonable.

Is there any evidence that this is practical, Alfa? As I suggested above it would be useful to have expert opinion backed by evidence. There have been huge changes in the design of smartphones and they have much of the power of computers in a very small space.

Until I can see evidence that it is practical to keep old phones secure for as long as we want then perhaps it would be best to focus on the problem of phone service providers pushing us to replace our phone with a new shiny one within two years of purchase – or less.

I doubt that many security flaws arise from hardware limitations on older phones.

Instead, if manufacturers will not patch out revealed flaws in older code and will not release that code for others to patch, then it becomes impossible to use older devices securely.

Imagine driving an old car without an MoT. Most of us would not risk that.

Wrentom says:
26 June 2020

I agree with malcolm r. It is not good enough to demand that we spend a fortune on new mobile phones in order to have such an important app.

I agree with that. If the Government need the app or an equivalent capability to become universally adopted, it is a mistake to only make it available for a subset of mobile phones. In some articles, I have seen references to the use of bluetooth tags, as an alternative for those without compatible mobiles.

Silvii says:
29 June 2020

Keep smart phone updated automatically or manually I prefer auto set up in account Google whoever is acc : server auto update apps rid of malware .In the past Android had not notice bad playstore apps on their platform until notified .Smart phone or say 2/3 yes old also press scan may be auto System settings built into phones EMUI your software update and scanning also have a company antivirus and protection app can get free or upgrade Read the previous specification of older phone or upgrade a smart phone read the product specification see if it has built in setting EMUI before setting up ..

David C says:
30 June 2020

I’ve already tried to persuade Which? to stop recommending ‘phones (particularly Androids) which have a short period of updates – typically max 3 yrs from launch date, not even purchase date – i.e. short built-in obsolescence. Bad for consumer & environment. But they won’t. There’s still “Best Buys” with poor sustainability

Tosh!

Scaremongering is what Which? seems good at nowadays.
Using any device without appropriate security software is taking a risk. Downloading, installing and allowing any app/programme access to areas of your device has to be done with caution.

I’m still using Windows XP on 2 pc’s but use updated antivirus, malware and firewall protection with no issues at all.

Completely different scenario. Do you expect your car to be usable after three years?

The day after an MOT and your car could be unroadworthy.

Yes, but if it did pass the Mot the day before, then it should be very unlikely to fail the next day, so the risk involved will be low and, as the car owner I will have taken reasonable steps to avoid any such scenario.

On the other hand, if I deliberately drove a car that I knew could not pass the Mot, then I would be failing to exercise due diligence.

I also still have a number of XP PC’s but I refuse to use them online because I have more up to date kit that I can use instead.

On my iPhone I found what Kate was referring to. Go to Settings > Health and you will find COVID-19 Exposure Logging, which is off by default.

I would be grateful for advice from Kate about whether I should turn this on. I’m ignoring the advice from BJ to head for the shops, at least for the time being.

I should have read your intro properly before posting, Kate. I’d worked it out but could not edit/delete my post.

I hope that you will advise on security risks etc. when it is functional.

Wayne says:
22 June 2020

How can I be sure that this tracking cannot be turned ON by Apple/Google if the default is off & it can be updated without my knowledge or an app installed without my knowing ?

You are being tracked by Google and Apple without an app.

Indeed.

John Haywood says:
23 June 2020

I just don’t see why there is a Privacy issue. All an APP needs to do is log the IMEI of phones within the prescribed range and time-frame and send that list to contact tracers for manual processing. The IMEI number does not contain any personally identifying data so there is no breach of DPA and once a ‘contact’ has been spoken to, that IMEI number removed from the contact tracing database.

Graham Forecast says:
23 June 2020

so, as any app is only going to work on the latest smartphones and all of us still using older phones will be excluded, added to all those who don’t even have a smart phone – thus excluding a high proportion of the older generation (ie those most at risk), the whole system will be about as much use a a chocolate teapot

As Kate has said, the key problem here is that older unsupported OS versions are not secure. So even thought apps can be made to work on them, it is unprofesional to do that with new apps, because the developers might then be resonsible for the continued use of unsecure devices and any consequential losses if user data were to be hacked.

Gibraltar released its contact tracing app last week, which uses the Apple/Google API. These apps work anywhere, as long as everyone else is using the same app. Therefore why doesn’t everyone in the UK use the Gibraltar app rather than waiting until September for the UK’s incompetent government to release the UK app? The Gibraltar app is produced by a competent British government. Or even better, why don’t all countries use the same app, which will be important when people start to travel internationally again?

I agree. I do not see why we have to reinvent the wheel ( unless those producing commercial apps are profiteering).

Give the presumed IT expertise in our universities I wonder why we cannot produce a competent app and associated data base, though.

If funding was provided they might be happy to take this on.

I presume that different apps are being developed for evaluation, which would allow the most effective one to be adopted. The first one trialled in the Isle of Wight did not prove as effective as had been hoped.

I have not seen any comparative studies for the one used in Gibraltar, mentioned by NFH. compared with alternatives.

malcolm r says:
I agree. I do not see why we have to reinvent the wheel ( unless those producing commercial apps are profiteering).
Give the presumed IT expertise in our universities I wonder why we cannot produce a competent app and associated data base, though.

The problems are security and privacy. Older ‘phones run on slower processors with possibly flawed chipsets. The newer ‘phones have had hardware upgrades to make illicit data acquisition more difficult and the newer apps are designed to protect the privacy of he users whose data is being used.

Producing the database is a doddle; securing it is a nightmare.

Wavechange, the UK government was warned very publicly by many independent technical experts that their own non-Apple/Google solution wouldn’t work because of restrictions in iOS. Nevertheless the UK government went ahead and wasted taxpayers’ money on developing it, and wasting valuable time while the UK remains without a functioning app. In the meantime, the far more competent British government of Gibraltar developed an app using the Apple/Google solution.

Thanks NFH. I’ve just found the same information. I’m socially distancing myself from what the government is saying unless there is science to support the views of the politicians.

The government doesn’t develop apps so who did they pay to attempt this one?

If I’d looked first it was NHSX, teans from the NHS and others. Why do we not use university IT specialists to do this sort of work? Do they not have the expertise?

I found this information about the costs of developing the app that the government decided not to use: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-contract-tracing-app-cost-uk-government-apple-android-a9576001.html

I don’t know the answer about IT specialists but wonder if the government offered funding.

If they can pay these outfits they can pay universities, surely. Why did no one know apple iOS would prevent its use?

Once again, were universities offered funding? I’m not qualified to comment on why the app was less effective on iOS devices. There is an article in the Independent that suggested that the new app will be better on iOS and Android than the previous one was on Android but have no reliable information to back this up.

This is fast becoming shakedown time for the universities as they ponder the implications of coronavirus on their foreign student intake and other related issues, so bidding for an app development project was probably not top of their priorities right now – that’s assuming they were even given the chance to offer their services. Money obviously isn’t the problem. As Malcolm said, it has been found [and then wasted].

The £11 million spent would, I should imagine, have been very welcome. University staff seem to have been working on COVID spread modelling, for example.

What I am interested in learning is whether, in appropriate cases, the government could make more use of the knowledge and talent that universities have, for payment of course, instead of paying huge sums to consultants.

I’m sure the Government has been trying its best to make good use of our universities during the pandemic.

That said said, I doubt that many universities are set up to work as manufacturing industries, not even in the field of software engineering.

So, whilist I would certainly expect that a good university software engineering department would be teaching the skills and knowledge need to produce simple entreprenurial mobile apps, I doubt that they would have the quality assurance infrastructure needed to tackle an urgent high profile and high risk project for Government.

I agree. This sort of work might be best done as a collaborative effort perhaps on a science park associated with a university. Having to deliver a reliable product within months is not easy but there are always going to be those who have to find someone to blame when something does not work out right at the first attempt.

The NHS should stick to health care. They don’t have a great track record in IT development.

Hi Kate – A friend has an iPhone 5s that is now over five years old (with the original battery) and cannot be used with iOS 13. Nevertheless, Apple have continued to release updates for iOS 12, the latest being 12.4.7 in May. From Wikipedia: “iOS 12.4.7 was released on May 20, 2020, for devices that don’t support iOS 13. The devices that are supported on iOS 12.4.7 are the iPad Air 1st generation, the iPad mini 2nd generation, the iPad mini 3, the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and the iPod touch 6th generation, all of which are not compatible with iOS 13 or iPadOS 13.”

I had assumed that since Apple are still releasing updates, the phone is still secure, otherwise there would be no point in having the software updates. It seems likely that the updates will end soon and the phone obviously will not support coronavirus tracking. But is it secure at the moment?

Thanks Kate. I have already advised her and discovered that the phone in question is not running the latest version of iOS 12, for some reason. I guess it was too full of photos to accept the software update. Since I’ve been told that my iPhone 11 is rather large, the new SE might fit the bill.

StephenM says:
24 June 2020

My Dyson cleaner is almost 14 years old, still works great – will I be able to get the new tracking app on it?

Yes but only if you now agree to carry your Dyson with you at all times.

Barbara Le Gallez says:
24 June 2020

Reading this has made me very glad that I have never bothered to get a smartphone. Sounds like I would just have bought into a lot of hassle.

Geoff moulds says:
24 June 2020

I would not use anything that had the slightest connection to Google. They are constantly being caught out stealing data then saying they didn’t know they were doing it – how can anyone trust a company like that. Apple & Google said the NHS app would not work on their phones, in other words they would interfere with it – pure blackmail.

It might be worth taking some time to understand how this API works and what data is stored where. Taking an approach akin to “I refuse to use this technology because I don’t understand it and one of the parties involved does something totally unrelated that I don’t like” isn’t going to help you.

I would not use the app because I refuse to use anything that has the slightest connection to google. They are constantly being caught out stealing data without permission, then giving the excuse ‘we didn’t know we were doing it’. How can anyone trust a company like that? Apple & google said the NHS wouldn’t work on their phones, in other words they would interfere with it. Pure blackmail.

It might be worth taking some time to understand how the Apple/Google API works and what data is stored where. Taking an approach akin to “I refuse to use this technology because I don’t understand it and one of the parties involved does something totally unrelated that I don’t like” isn’t going to help you.

I agree, NFH. Having tried to learn more it is difficult to find information that is unbiased.

Gerry Hunting says:
24 June 2020

My phone is a 2016 Samsung on Android 5.1.1. I use it for calls, photos and Google Maps, plus the odd email. Certainly not for banking, or ordering anything involving card details. Wherein lies the danger.? I agree entirely with other comments; we are being blackmailed into chucking things away, and spending good money just to go through the same process in 3 years time. I too am disappointed at Which’s approach to the subject.

I agree with comments made regarding the obvious intentions to force users to have to continually upgrade, as an obvious tactic to generate revenue. If we ignore applications related to financial management, there should be no reason why you should not be able to keep the vast majority of functions and apps secure on older devices.

If you do not use finance related apps or functions on your mobile device – and personally I don’t see why you have to if the better option of using a home PC (or similar) which can be kept up to date with current OS and updates (and also potentially have a more secure wired connection) is available – then why can’t older devices be supported. This just encourages the throwaway mentality and toxic consumer attitude.

Not making an app that can be used on the largest number of devices is self-defeating – if the take up is not great enough it just won’t work, even if the app itself is (by some miracle) fit for purpose.

But this is not the main issue here – but rather the complete lack of honesty and understanding displayed by the government. Am I the only person to watch BBC Question Time?

I say this because over the last few weeks the issue of Track & Trace has been extensively discussed, and what has been stated by government ministers around this issue now looks like complete and utter rubbish and actually now appears to be untrue – and I can’t believe this has not been mentioned.

Towards the beginning of this month (June 2020), when pressed on the issue, the government minister on the panel made repeated promises that the NHSX app would be up and running across the UK by the end of the month. Fiona Bruce then told him they would have him back on to answer questions if it wasn’t, but within days the NHSX app was (sadly, but predictably) abandoned!

In a following program, the panel government minister said this was not an issue, as they had been “backing both horses” in respect of the now abandoned NHSX app and the app being developed by Apple/Google. When asked why time and money had been wasted on developing an in-house app, he said this was standard practice as you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

In other words discussion was around the idea that Apple and Google did have an app, and that the UK government would now be looking to adopt this when it was available.

So, do Apple & Google have an app which the UK government are looking to implement, or was this just yet another case of ministers not having a clue what is happening – or worse still actually not telling us the truth?

In response to “So, do Apple & Google have an app which the UK government are looking to implement, or was this just yet another case of ministers not having a clue what is happening – or worse still actually not telling us the truth?” – no, Apple and Google do not have an app, but an API to a service within the smartphone’s operating system that detects proximity and records anonymous identifiers of nearby smartphones.

Government ministers are technically illiterate. Their attempts at previous initiatives and policies demonstrate this, for example their unworkable and abandoned plan to block porn from those who have not opted in. Aside from the likes of Keir Starmer, who has an expert understanding of law, politicians are generally experts in nothing, particularly technology.

To be fair, I think many politicians are experts in the field of not giving simple truthful answers to clear and unambiguous questions.

Here in Gloucester our last (unsuccesful) Labour candidate actually had a PhD in carbon capture technology, so, if elected, she would have been well equipped to undertstand issues around climate change.

Politicians are advised by the civil service. Maybe we should be questioning the latter’s competence.

Actually, I suspect one thing that doesn’t serve the public well is the convoluted and complex way the press often ask questions, supplying a deck of answers, from which they expect the politician to select.

The question you quoted from BenUK, NFH, is a fairly good example of what I mean. Rarely is a question asked which requires a simple answer.

I stopped watching Question Time a long time ago. I used to then catch the tail end while waiting for “This Week”. I simply tired of the predictable negativity. A Tory following the party line, labour disagreeing and attacking on principle, Lib Dems telling us what they thought we’d like to hear (no chance of having to live up to it) and other fringe parties having a bicker.

Just occasionally they had someone on the panel who made sensible contributions, and they were the odd journalist, professional, someone from the real world. A notable example was Ian Hislop.

I’d just ban all politicians from the panel and invite genuine people from the same world I inhabit.

Malcolm, you forgot internet trolls (sorry political persuaders), those that reflect the people (sorry brainless celebs).

Trouble with inviting genuine people, they would still be biased to the flavour of the programme.

I don’t usually stay up late enough to watch Question Time but I do quite often listen to Any Questions?

As Malcolm says, sometimes the debates are just annoyingly fractious and often the best participants are those who do not have a party line to follow and who may even have some relevant knowledge of the subject in question.

As an Engineer, I have been taught to ask open questions rather than biassed ones such as: `why has time and money been _wasted_ on developing an in-house app?’. For example, to ask that as a more open question, I’d use `spent’ rather than `wasted’.

If politicians do ever receive any training for their chosen occupation, I imagine their initial training covers techniques for avoiding any question and then diving down a nearby but unrelated rabbit hole. Examples of this can be seen in Parliament, e.g. during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Julie M says:
25 June 2020

I have an iPhone 6s and still get updates. I have checked which operating version u have and it is 13.5.1, it updated a few days ago so can’t understand why this is not happening with other people’s. I swapped from my old iPhone 5 when it would no longer update, my husband now uses it but does no use it for anything sensitive to hack. Julie M

Hi Julie – When your phone is no longer supported I suggest you look at how long support will be available. If you bought your 6s when it was launched you would have a supported phone for longer than if you bought it around the time it was discontinued. Apple has a list of currently supported models but I don’t know if they publish dates when support will cease. On the other hand, Microsoft publishes information about the end of support for their Windows operating system.

Noel says:
25 June 2020

I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile with an added Blackberry-type keyboard and still get updates. In any case, it has added antivirus protection and I have no intention of replacing it unless/until it gives up on me! Nor do I like using bluetooth other than for specific and limited connections. So in any case am dubious about the proposed new app even if it gets going.

I have malware protection on my phone too, though I don’t know anyone who has had a problem without it. I’m concerned that through file sharing I could pass on a problem to a computer, though they are also protected.

I’d be interested to know about your concerns about leaving Bluetooth switched on, Noel. I used to turn it on only when I needed it – mainly to extend the period between charges – but Apple now turns it on in the middle of the night to improve my user experience. 🙁 I suppose it does. I do know how to turn it off in Settings but rarely do so.