Friday 19 June 2020 4:11 pm

Apple says government had not told it about coronavirus app plans

Apple has said that it was not aware that the UK was developing an NHS contact tracing app using technology the firm built with Google.

Yesterday the government announced that it was dropping its own app in favour of using the Apple/Google technology, which is already in use in countries such as Germany.

Read more: Privacy U-turn: NHS tracing app shifted to Apple and Google model

However, speaking to the Times, Apple said: “We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They haven’t spoken to us about it”.

It also questioned comments from health secretary Matt Hancock, who yesterday pointed out issues with the technology’s distance measuring capabilities.

Again, Apple challenged the claims, saying: “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us”.

Downing Street has said that the government has been working closely with Apple and Google.

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The latter said yesterday that it welcomed the government’s announcement.

The now-abandoned NHS app was trialled on the Isle of Wight in May, where it was downloaded 50,000 times.

However, initial results found that it could only detect four per cent of contacts on Apple phones, prompting the technology to be ditched.

“We knew from the start that we would need to test and learn as we developed this new technology,” said health secretary Matt Hancock in a statement.

“As we enter this next phase of research and development we remain determined to continue in our ambition to develop an app which meets the technical, security and user needs of the public and which can complement the NHS Test and Trace service.”

Read more: Health minister admits NHS coronavirus app might not be ready before winter

The decision came just a day after a health minister had said that the app was “no longer a priority” for the government.

Apple and Google’s software is an actual app, but technology that allows contact tracing apps to work better on their respective operating systems.

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