Covid-19 Tracker App Ireland – How it works, will it invade my privacy and can the app work in Northern Ireland?

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A COVID-19 Tracker app has been launched – with more than 540,000 people downloading it to their phones on day one.

The app is designed to enable real-time contact tracing as well as symptom tracking and keeps track of other users’ phones with which the user comes into closer contact.

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The app is displayed as shown above on the app stores
    The app is displayed as shown above on the app stores

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The app is displayed as shown above on the app stores
    The app registers other phones that your phones come in close contact with via Bluetooth

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The app registers other phones that your phones come in close contact with via Bluetooth
    It also displays real-time data on the progress of Covid-19 in Ireland

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It also displays real-time data on the progress of Covid-19 in Ireland

HSE experts said the app would be a “very powerful tool” for locating contacts and removing the virus, and encouraged as many members of the public as possible to download it.

WHAT IS THE APP?

The Covid-19 Tracker app is a voluntary membership app. It can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Android app stores and can also be found at covidtracker.gov.ie.

It works from a decentralized tracking system, but you need your devices’ Bluetooth to be turned on to work.

The app is currently available in English and Irish and the Minister of Health has said he is open to the inclusion of other languages ​​in future updates.

It has also been adapted to make it as accessible as possible according to the Ministry of Health with input from organizations such as the National Council for the Blind.

HOW IT WORKS?

A user downloads the app and is prompted to turn on their Bluetooth.

Once the phone and its bluetooth are activated, it records the user’s close contacts by exchanging anonymous codes with other users’ phones.

The app defines close contact as anyone within two meters for 15 minutes or more.

Essentially, it keeps track of which phones your phone comes in contact with and therefore who you come into contact with.

This means that if your coronavirus test is positive, your close contacts have been saved and are easily reachable through the app.

According to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, close contacts with the app can be traced and contacted within hours.

If your test is positive, you will be able to choose whether you want to anonymously alert users of the app with whom you have been in close contact.

DO I HAVE TO RECORD MY SYMPTOMS?

The app also has a symptom tracking system.

It asks you to enter daily whether or not you have symptoms of Covid-19, which then allows the HSE to develop additional data on the virus.

This aspect of the app is optional – you can choose to turn on close contact tracing and not log your symptoms.

You can also choose to update your symptoms on some days and not on others.

WILL THE APPLICATION INVADE MY PRIVACY?

The application works on a decentralized model. This is different from a standard geolocation or tracking app that would record where you go.

The decentralized model means the app doesn’t track where you go and collect no personal information.

It simply identifies when people become close contacts through their Bluetooth connection.

Application information will not be stored on an HSE server or in any government agency.

While Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said privacy concerns are “real and reasonable”, but the app has been designed with “privacy at heart”.

The app’s data protection impact assessment is publicly available at hse.ie

DOES THE APP WORK IN NORTHERN IRELAND?

Yes, the app will work around or across the Northern Irish border.

WILL MY PHONE WORK?

The app does not require your phone to be connected to the internet.

It is based only on Bluetooth, so an internet connection is not required for it to work and store close contacts.

However, as of now, the app only works on IPhone 6s and above and Android 7s and above.

The app is also not available for those under 16.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF DOWNLOADING THE APP?

The application allows easy search of contacts. If your coronavirus test is positive, your close contacts will be saved for you, making it much easier to find, contact and isolate your close contacts.

Health officials hope the app will help further suppress the virus and enable a swift response to combat any second wave.

Speaking at the launch of the tracking app, health officials praised the 250,000 people who have already downloaded the app, but called on the rest of the public to download.

Minister Donnelly said the app is “an important tool in our efforts to remove the virus.”

He explained that by downloading the app, people can protect themselves, their friends, family and those around them.

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