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Covid-19 tracing app loopholes allow tech companies access to user location data, Privacy International warns

THE coronavirus contact tracing app contains loopholes allowing authorities to access a user’s detailed location data and send it to tech companies, according to an analysis by Privacy International (PI).

PI was given access to the app aiming to trace potential Covid-19 patients ahead of its nationwide launch and looked into its technical functionalities.

The campaign group revealed on Thursday evening that there is no mechanism to opt-in or opt-out of third-party trackers that are included in the app.

Usage of the app has already begun on the Isle of Wight, as residents are being used as guinea pigs in a trial run.

PI’s findings also show that the app includes codes for Google Firebase Analytics and Microsoft Appcenter Analytics trackers, which collect data about the user.

App developers have said this is to provide metrics on app performance.

But PI said there were functionality issues making its efficacy “questionable.”

PI said its cursory testing suggested that only those with modern smartphones will be able to run the app, likely excluding those who cannot afford the latest devices.

This is despite researchers calling for a majority of the population to download a contact-tracing app for authorities to successfully map the virus.

The group said it will conduct a “deeper technical investigation soon.”

On Thursday the joint human rights committee called for the government to put in place effective safeguards to protect individual privacy before the app is rolled out.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the NHS Covid-19 app is a key part of its plans to track the virus and keep people safe.
 

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