Android iPhone Phones Software

Do I have the coronavirus tracking app on my phone?

coronavirus tracking app
Behind the mask: coronavirus tracking apps are not being secretly installed

With the government decision to move from an in-house coronavirus tracking app to the Apple/Google equivalent, some people have claimed that tracking software has already appeared on their phone, and without them requesting it.

Is the government already tracking us by stealth?

Of course not. Let’s quickly run through what the tracking app is supposed to do, which is going to help explain this.

How does coronavirus tracking work?

Using Bluetooth, it tracks you passing people who are using the same app – you both exchange the fact that you’ve passed each other and how closely. If one of you then becomes infected with COVID-19, then the results from the app can be used to work out who needs to be informed to self-isolate or be tested.

The UK Government’s version failed because, to achieve this, it needed to do things that the respective Apple and Google didn’t allow for – for example, keeping a Bluetooth connection open when the respective app isn’t.

What is the Apple/Google solution?

What Google and Apple have created is an API (application programming interface) – code that an authorised third-party app can access. The API itself does the tracking, which means that it can bypass any restrictions that would otherwise have prevented it.

The other advantage of the Apple/Google solution is that it is de-centralised – your private information is not sent to a central server somewhere, but kept on your phone, safeguarding privacy. (I’ll leave you to decide what the current Government would have gained by having all of your private data).

So, what people are seeing on their phone is confirmation that the API is installed. This can only be used by a verified app, one of which will be the eventual UK Government solution. When this app is installed, which you’ll need to do manually, the API will be activated – on both Google and Apple devices you can see that the current system is inactive.

How to check if coronavirus tracking is enabled on your phone

Checking on iOS

  1. In Settings, scroll down and select Privacy
  1. On the next screen, find Health and click on that
  1. The COVID-19 option is at the top – right now, it should be switched off, with no option to switch it on. You can click into that, if you wish, to see the further options that will be available, once active.

Checking on Android

These instructions may vary, depending on your device. In this case, I’ve used a recent model of Motorola phone, which is pretty close to stock-Android.

  1. Head into Settings
  2. Now select Google (Services & Preferences)
  1. You can see the COVID-19 options at the top

NOW READ THIS: Where are Android downloads stored?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.


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