COVID19 contact tracing apps are set to grow in number. Technology giants Apple and Google are developing a new one that will use Bluetooth tech to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus. The ICO has now provided “a cautious green light” to the project. We spoke with CRIBB Cyber Security’s Patrick Carolan to gauge his opinion on this.

A huge collaboration

Patrick, what do you think about the collaboration between these two powerhouse brands?

A lot of software developers are working to find solutions to the COVID19 pandemic. Many are creating technical tools to help save lives. I think it is fantastic that two such well-known companies are joining forces to do the same. As part of theICEway, our own team are working alongside various healthcare partners to do our bit, too.

Can you tell us anything more about “your bit”?

Not at this point in time but hopefully soon – watch this space!

We will. In the meantime, can you tell us what you know about the Google / Apple app?

From what I have read and heard, it is going to use Bluetooth technology and anonymous identifier beacons to track infections. It will notify users if they have been near somebody who later tests positive for the virus, meaning that they can then self-isolate or arrange a test for themselves.

Data Protection: A key consideration

It sounds like a positive tool, then?

It could well be but there are definitely some potential data protection issues that will need to be addressed.

Can you give us some examples of these?

The main issue centres on what type of data is going to be collected via the app. Then, how it might be subsequently used will also need to be dealt with.

The Information Commissioner has stated that: “The proposals for the CTF itself appear aligned with the principles of data protection by design and by default.”

That is true, but the opinion that was published on April 17th does go on to echo what I mentioned before. It outlines core considerations that the project must adhere to, most notably on what data is to be acquired and how it will be used thereafter. I think most people would agree that this app, not to mention the other apps that are currently being worked on, will all be positive additions in the fight against COVID19. What those of us in the data protection and cyber security world are most concerned with, is that they are all paying attention to privacy rights.

Will you download the app once it is launched?

We shall see, as long as it does indeed fall in line with the DPA, GDPR and other data protection laws, then it’s possible!


ICO – Information Commissioner’s Office

CTF – Contact Tracing Framework, the name given to the joint Google and Apple initiative by the ICO

Top Tip

Interested in the efforts being made to combat COVID19 in the healthcare industry right now? Then keep an eye out for future blog posts from CRIBB Cyber Security. As part of theICEway ecosystem of companies, our experts have worked alongside healthcare clients for decades. Just like those behind COVID19 contact tracing apps, they too are fully dedicated to beating this pandemic!