Covid tracking app must be backed up by human judgement.

I have no problem with the privacy aspects of tracking apps because I have a fair amount of trust in the Government - at least in this respect.

However, as an electronics engineer I know that an app running on current smartphones will be unable to measure infection risk with any plausible degree of accuracy. For example, Bluetooth signals go through things like glass and plasterboard walls,

This means that when you sit in a queue of slow-moving traffic, the people in the cars around you will be logged as close contacts. With the app as described on the NHS website, any of those people can report themselves anonymously as possibly having the virus. The app will then tell you to self-isolate for 14 days.
In a description I read in the news pertaining to Scotland, self-diagnosis would have to be backed up by testing, and people would be told to self-isolate only if the test result came out positive. That would be somewhat better.

But whichever way, a tracing app that is left largely to itself will act as a very wide net. It will crudely disrupt the lives of many thousands of people for every real case of actual infection in the community.

Personally I will not install such an app, unless it is either made compulsory by law or made unavoidable in order to be able to function in society.

What I would happily install however, is an app for which the automated alerts are backed up by a reasoned investigation carried out by a human being. Such an approach would take care of most false alerts; like when the infected person was in another car or, on the other side of a wall, or when my phone was nowhere near me because I left it on the charger somewhere.

Why the contribution is important

For technical reasons, the tracking app as proposed is certain to be very inaccurate in its automated alerts. As such it will cause widespread, unnecessary stress and hardship, unless the alerts are moderated by human judgement that takes account of the limitations of the technology.

by Ro2 on May 08, 2020 at 03:18PM

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Based on: 4 votes


  • Posted by Elkie May 08, 2020 at 15:51

    It is for this reason, that I prefer the Scottish version to the UK approach. I would not install the UK app. The track and trace with human staff is going to save many lives, I think.
  • Posted by StevenSaunderson May 08, 2020 at 16:55

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comment by Ro2 regarding the importance of tracking and tracing having a big human element. As well as teams monitoring any data returned from people who choose to download the App we need to have well staffed tracing teams along the lines of the South Korean response to supress the virus and any possible resurgence. The South Koreans did not breach any privacy laws as their alerts in real time only incuded age, gender and name and addresses of the places they visited. I would suggest using the skills and expertise of organisations such as the Police to back up any such App. Police and Local Authority colleagues could link in with other relevant organisations to work from hubs (Social Distancing involved obviously) to follow up leads on contact between potentially infected persons and others, utilising public space CCTV, vehicle details, GPS tracking, Credit/Debit Card transactions, without infringing on privacy for public protection reasons. Using the experience of Police officers to contact people thought to be infected would be a reliable way of backing up their movements in conjunction with data from any App, to decide on further lines of enquiry with regards to contact and persons who may need to self isolate. Run like a missing person enquiry where you are trying to trace people who they may have had contact with as opposed to the missing person who would be replaced by the potentially infected person as the starting point of any enquiry. Speaking to people and ascertaining movements/contact is essential to corroborate, verify and assess any data produced via Apps to allow for defensible decision making on further action to be taken. I am a serving Police Officer , not currently frontline (on standby as contingency), with extensive investigative experience which could be out to good use to back up any App. I am sure Police Scotland could resource staffing in each Divisional area backed up by Public Health, NHS, Councils and other organisations.
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