The UK has reversed course, adopting Apple and Google’s API for its contact tracing efforts.
Contact tracing has been touted as one of the main components to successfully combatting the coronavirus pandemic. Efforts to roll out the technology have split along two lines. Some countries have focused on solutions that store data in a centralized, government database, while others have adopted the privacy-focused API that Apple and Google created.
Initially, the UK went with the centralized approach, but is now going with the API instead.
“Following rigorous field testing and a trial on the Isle of Wight, we have identified challenges with both our app and the Google/Apple framework,” says the Department of Health and Social Care.
“This is a problem that many countries around the world, like Singapore, are facing and in many cases only discovering them after whole population roll-out.
“As a result of our work, we will now be taking forward a solution that brings together the work on our app and the Google/Apple solution. This is an important step, allowing us to develop an app that will bring together the functionality required to carry out contact tracing, but also making it easy to order tests, and access proactive advice and guidance to aid self-isolation.”
While the press release does not specifically mention privacy, it likely played a role in the overall decision. As a rule, centralized solutions have not been widely adopted by users, who view them with suspicion due to privacy concerns. Apple and Google’s solution, on the other hand, is built around a decentralized, privacy-first approach that many are more comfortable with.