- The UK government accidentally left documents outlining the the potential future for its contact-tracing app on a publicly accessible Google Drive, Wired UK reports.
- The UK’s official contact-tracing app is not yet fully live, and is being tested on the Isle of Wight.
- According to the documents future versions of the app might ask for more data, track geolocation, and allow people to set a “COVID-19 status.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK government accidentally revealed some of its future plans for its COVID-19 contact-tracing app by leaving them on a publicly accessible Google Drive.
The drive was spotted by Wired UK, and contained documents including one entitled “Product Direction: Release One” and labelled “OFFICIAL – SENSITIVE.”
A link to the open drive was included in a batch of documents published intended to detail the data and privacy protections and risks of the contact-tracing app, known as a Data Privacy Impact Assessment (DPIA).
The UK has yet to properly release its contact-tracing app, which is currently being tested on the Isle of Wight and is due for a wider national release one to two weeks from now. At the moment the app only asks users for the first half of their post code, and uses Bluetooth to alert them to when they may have come into contact with another user who has reported themself as positive for COVID-19.
The document seen by Wired detailed a potential update for the app which would ask users to input more data. “Collect self-reported data from the public like post code, demographic information and co-location status to enable more effective resource planning for NHS,” one slide from the document read.
A note in this document also said users might be able to set a “COVID-19 status,” with the options being: quarantine, self-isolating, social distancing, shielding, and none. More notes suggested users could be asked for their full post codes and details about their GP practices in future versions of the app.
A slide that outlined more potential developments for the app said that in future “capturing continuous geolocation events” could be integrated into the app. The current app uses Bluetooth to figure out which other phones you have been in contact with, but doesn’t use location data, although for it to function you do have to give it access to your location.
The Google Drive has now been made private after Wired alerted the Department of Health and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) to the fact it was accessible.
Responding to the Wired UK piece, an NHSX spokesman told Business Insider:
“The NHS Covid-19 App has been designed to protect users’ privacy while tackling the spread of infection and could be a key tool to help Government manage the pandemic and save lives. It does not track location or store any personal information; the app only asks for the first half of a user’s postcode, and if any changes are made in future versions of the app they will be fully explained to users and uptake will remain entirely voluntary.”
The Department of Health and was not immediately available for comment on the documents when contacted by Business Insider.