LONDON – Apple and Google have blocked a planned update to the COVID-19 contact tracing app in England and Wales, BBC News reported. The rejected update would have asked users to upload logs of their venue check-ins after testing positive for coronavirus to help warn others who had been at the same venue at the same time. However, such a feature was explicitly banned from the outset by both tech giants.

England and Wales COVID-19 Contact Tracing App Update Breaks Apple and Google Rules

As lockdown restrictions gradually lessen across the UK, health authorities are setting up systems to monitor and contain any outbreaks. The foundation is posters with QR codes displayed at venues that customers scan when they enter. The app regularly checks a central database. Local authorities can flag it to users if there were a high number of positive tests connected to a location. The intention was to expand the use of the app by asking users who test positive to upload the logs of where they have been. This is despite the fact that making location data accessible to others is explicitly banned by both Google and Apple. Apple’s FAQs state:

The Exposure Notifications System does not share location data from the user’s device with the Public Health Authority, Apple, or Google.

Furthermore:

There will be restrictions on the data that apps can collect when using the API, including not being able to request access to location services, and restrictions on how data can be used.

In Scotland, the COVID-19 contact tracing app is separate from the one that asks users to share venue histories and so has not encountered this issue.

Health Department Confirms Delay

A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care told BBC News

The deployment of the functionality of the NHS Covid-19 app to enable users to upload their venue history has been delayed. This does not impact the functionality of the app and we remain in discussions with our partners to provide beneficial updates to the app which protect the public.

The Mac Observer has reached out to Apple for comment but had not received a reply at the time of this writing.

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