Tuesday, July 07, 2020

The HSE's Covid Tracker App #Analytics


Many people will be worried about the data privacy implications with the new HSE Covid Tracker App. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has stated "Please take two minutes to download the app. It is totally private" - if you are reassured by statements from politicians, then you should be OK. 

Clearly - the motives for creating and using this tracker are morally justified in my view. Anything that can help slow down infection rates, which in turn will save lives, is good for the common good. Nobody wants to get catch this virus, nobody wants to pass it on, nobody wants to die from Covid-19, and I'm certain that nobody wants to be the source of infection for someone who dies. So what's the problem with a tracker app?


No data collected is private. Repeat - no data collected is private.

Data sits on a computer somewhere - everything from phones to servers. In order for this app to work it has to gather data - that means that it can be accessed. No doubt these data will be a valuable source of information for researchers everywhere. Who knows - a data scientist might come up with a cure before a medical scientist looking for a vaccine.

I have installed the App and intend to use it. There are very few age groups listed - the oldest is "60+" which the App tells me is the most vulnerable group. I am in this group, and have in interest in staying alive. During installation I was told "Your identity will never be revealed to other app users" and that "Any personal data you provide will be processed in line with GDPR and data protection law". There were several opportunities to visit data protection sites.

We have to trust this App, the people who created it, and those who protect the data. There will be hackers out there already trying to get their hands on these valuable data. Since I took the screenshot above on my phone 22 minutes ago, the number has gone up to 160,440 Check-Ins today.

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