COVID Tracker Ireland

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COVID Tracker Ireland
Screenshot
Home screen
Contact tracing section
Developer(s)
Initial release7 July 2020; 14 months ago (2020-07-07)
Stable release
Android1.0.6 / 24 March 2021; 5 months ago (2021-03-24)
iOS1.0.6 / 29 March 2021; 5 months ago (2021-03-29)
Repositorygithub.com/HSEIreland/covid-tracker-app
Operating systemAndroid, iOS
Size
  • 11.3 MB (Android)
  • 24.2 MB (iOS)
Standard(s)
Available inEnglish, Irish, Arabic, French, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese
TypeDigital contact tracing
COVID-19 apps
LicenceMIT License
Websitecovidtracker.gov.ie

COVID Tracker Ireland is a digital contact tracing app released by the Irish Government and the Health Service Executive on 7 July 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland.[1][2][3] The app uses ENS and Bluetooth technology to determine whether a user have been a close contact of someone for more than 15 minutes who tested positive for COVID-19.[4][5] On 8 July, the app reached one million registered users within 36 hours after its launch, representing more than 30% of the population of Ireland and over a quarter of all smartphone users in the country.[6][7][8][9] As of August 2021, over 3,030,000 people have downloaded the app.

History[edit]

The development process of the COVID Tracker app began on 22 March 2020 when the Health Service Executive (HSE) contacted Waterford tech company NearForm to build a contact tracing app for Ireland using existing Bluetooth technology in smartphones to support contact tracing.[6] The €850,000 project involved representatives from the Department of Health, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the Garda Síochána, the Irish Army and Science Foundation Ireland.[10][11] NearForm was originally working on a centralised app that would group users' data together for authorities to study,[12] but in May 2020, the development team contacted Apple and Google to secure beta access to the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) developed by the two companies, which allows the COVID Tracker app to guarantee the anonymity of users and ensure any data transfer to contact tracers would happen only with user consent.[10][13][14] Within three months of development, the team had a secure, tested and reliable contact tracing app that worked and was ready to be deployed on a national scale.[6] The COVID Tracker app was launched by the Government of Ireland and the HSE on 7 July 2020 with 862,000 downloads on the first day of launch.[15]

The Northern Ireland StopCOVID NI and Scottish Protect Scotland apps are based on the same NearForm technology and interoperate with it.[16][17] NearForm have made the app source-code freely available under the MIT License.[18][19] In September 2020, NearForm deployed localised versions of the app under the "COVID Alert" brand in the U.S. states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.[20][21]

On 19 October, the COVID Tracker app became one of the first wave of national apps linked with other countries across the European Union after being linked with similar contact tracing apps from Italy and Germany.[22]

In July 2021, the app was updated to allow people to store and display the EU Digital COVID Certificate.[23]

Contact tracing[edit]

The COVID Tracker app uses Bluetooth Low Energy and Google's and Apple's Exposure Notifications System to generate anonymous IDs to log:

  • Any phone users are in close contact with that also has the app installed.[24]
  • The distance between users' phone and another app users' phone.[24]
  • The length of time users' phone is near another app users' phone.[24]

Every two hours the app downloads a list of anonymous codes which have been shared with the Health Service Executive (HSE) by other people using the app who have tested positive for COVID-19.[25] If a user have been closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with any of these phones, that user will get an alert notification on their phone.[26][27]

The app requires users to turn on the Exposure Notifications service and will only be available to those with phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or higher, or iOS 13.5 or higher.[28]

Privacy and data[edit]

The Health Service Executive claims that the COVID Tracker app protects the privacy of all users and was designed to protect users' privacy.[29][30]

Concerns[edit]

On 18 July 2020, researchers at Trinity College, Dublin issued a report claiming user privacy is not protected adequately in the COVID Tracking app if used with Google Play Services.[31][32] The report shows how Google Play Services used on Android devices sends highly sensitive personal data to Google servers every 20 minutes including users' IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, handset phone number and a Gmail address, which potentially allows for IP address-based location tracking of the phone.[33][34] The researchers at Trinity College described the revealed data transfers as "extremely troubling from a privacy viewpoint" while the Irish Council for Civil Liberties described it as being "completely opaque to users and the HSE themselves".[35]

Android battery drainage[edit]

On 9 August 2020, it was announced that the HSE was working with Google to identify and fix phone battery issues after the COVID Tracker app was reportedly draining Android users' batteries in 5 hours.[36][37] On 10 August, it was reported that 10% of Android users (86,000) uninstalled the app, following battery drainage issues.[38][39] On 11 August, the HSE announced that an update had been rolled out to 70% of Android phones, which is expected to fix the issue, and that 45,000 people had reinstalled the app in the last few days.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "COVID Tracker app now available to download". Health Service Executive. 6 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  2. ^ "COVID Tracker app". Government of Ireland. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  3. ^ "HSE launch the COVID Tracker App". Health Service Executive. 7 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  4. ^ McGrath, Dominic (7 July 2020). "'A powerful tool': How does the new Covid-19 contact tracing app work?". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  5. ^ Leprince-Ringuet, Daphne (7 July 2020). "Contact tracing: Ireland launches its app following Apple and Google's model". ZDNet. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "Building the gold-standard COVID-19 contact tracing app within 3 months". nearform.com. Health Service Executive. 24 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Ireland donates the world's most successful contact tracing app to the Linux Foundation". nearform.com. NearForm. 20 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  8. ^ Burns, Sarah; Wall, Martin (8 July 2020). "One million people have now downloaded Ireland's Covid-19 tracker app". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  9. ^ "One million downloads of COVID Tracker App in 48 hours". Health Service Executive. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Inside the collaborative effort behind Ireland's COVID Tracker app". nearform.com. NearForm. 14 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  11. ^ Ryan, Philip; Dillon, Fiona (6 July 2020). "New contact tracing app launch due within days". Herald.ie. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  12. ^ Asher Hamilton, Isobel (25 July 2020). "How Ireland built its COVID-19 contract tracing app, which is so successful that US states want to use it". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Apple and Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology". Apple Inc. 10 April 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Exposure Notification API launches to support public health agencies". blog.google. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  15. ^ "More than 862,000 download Covid tracker app in first day". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Covid-19: Tracing app is released for NI". BBC News. 30 July 2020. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Scotland's new tracing app: What you need to know about Protect Scotland". BBC News. 10 September 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Building the gold-standard COVID-19 contact tracing app within 3 months". NearForm. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  19. ^ "HSEIreland / covid-tracker-app". GitHub. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  20. ^ Rushing, Ellie; Goodin-Smith, Oona. "Contact tracing app tells Pennsylvanians if they've been exposed to coronavirus". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  21. ^ Gorey, Colm (2 October 2020). "NearForm contact-tracing apps launched in New York and New Jersey". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  22. ^ Murray, Sean (19 October 2020). "Ireland's Covid tracker app is now linked with similar contact tracing apps from Italy and Germany". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  23. ^ Burke, Céimin (13 July 2021). "Covid tracker app will be able to store EU Digital Covid Cert". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  24. ^ a b c "How the COVID Tracker app works". Government of Ireland. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  25. ^ "9th July - HSE Contact Tracing App". Leitrim County Council. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  26. ^ O'Brien, Ciara (7 July 2020). "What is Covid Tracker Ireland?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  27. ^ "Everything You Need To Know About The COVID Tracker App". everymum.ie. July 2020. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  28. ^ Gorey, Colm (7 July 2020). "4 things you need to know before installing the HSE Covid-19 contact-tracing app". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  29. ^ "Privacy and how we use your data". Government of Ireland. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  30. ^ Mangan, Ian (9 July 2020). "Coronavirus app Ireland: How safe is my privacy on the new Covid Tracker?". Irish Mirror. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  31. ^ Hennessy, Michelle (23 July 2020). "Concerns over Google Play Services reignited over Covid apps but HSE warns against conflating issues". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  32. ^ Leith, Douglas; Farrell, Stephen (18 July 2020). "Contact Tracing App Privacy: What Data Is Shared By Europe's GAEN Contact Tracing Apps" (PDF). Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  33. ^ Gorey, Colm (27 July 2020). "Does existing Android feature threaten privacy of contact-tracing apps?". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  34. ^ Doherty, Tomas (22 July 2020). "HSE defends Covid tracker app amid privacy concerns". BreakingNews.ie. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  35. ^ Brennan, Cianan (21 July 2020). "Covid-19 tracking app sharing possible location data with Google". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  36. ^ "COVID Tracker app: HSE working with Google amid reports of battery issues". Newstalk. 9 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  37. ^ Dunne, William (9 August 2020). "Covid tracker app 'draining phone battery in 5 hours' as HSE issues response to disgruntled users". Irish Mirror. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  38. ^ Brennan, Cianan (9 August 2020). "HSE'S Covid-19 tracker app has been deleted by 86,000 people". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  39. ^ "Google to fix Covid tracker app after thousands delete Android version". BreakingNews.ie. 10 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  40. ^ Ní Aodha, Gráinne (11 August 2020). "HSE says fix to stop Covid Tracker app draining batteries has been rolled out to 70% of Irish Android phones". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 11 August 2020.

External links[edit]