Mobile phones can be used to digitally trace Covid-19. But not if the public do not download an app more than privacy fears – or even find it won’t work on their own device

The thought of the NHS tracing application is to enable smartphones to users and tell them whether or not they interacted with someone who experienced Covid-19. Yet this will function only if large proportions from the population download the software. No matter how smart a solution may seem, mass consent is required. That wont be easy. Ministers plus officials have failed to address the trade-offs between health insurance and privacy by being ambiguous concerning the app’s safeguards.

Instead of offering cast-iron ensures about the length of time for which information would be held; who can access it; and the level of anonymity afforded, we have had opacity and obfuscation. It is correct that we are dealing with questions. But without absolute clearness about privacy the public will be unlikely to take up the app with the appropriate gana.

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