Home Coronavirus: News and Advice How the NHS Track and Trace App works and uses your data

How the NHS Track and Trace App works and uses your data

by Guy Murphy

The NHS COVID-19 app plays a vital role in helping us keep the number of positive cases of COVID-19 low through effectively isolating cases and outbreaks of the virus. By quickly alerting people to the fact that they have potentially come into contact with someone who has tested positive, the app helps reduce the risk of the virus spreading further. Once contacted, they can then start to self isolate immediately, ensuring they don’t pass the virus on to others.

To work, the app uses your mobile phone and shares certain data with the NHS (when you consent). It is important to know what data is shared and what information can be accessed by the app. Users can also set their own preferences and choose how they use the app.

You can download the app from your app store. It’s called NHS COVID-19.

How the app works

For the NHS app to work, it uses technology developed by Apple and Google called ‘exposure notification’ and ‘exposure logging’. This allows the app to send you alerts, using random IDs to protect your privacy and identity, when you’ve been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19.

The app uses this data along with the strength of the Bluetooth signal to work out:

  • How much time you may have spent near another app user
  • How near you were to other app users during this time

This data is stored on your phone. It cannot be seen or used by anyone, unless you choose to share it.

Sharing data

If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be asked if you want to share the data stored on your phone that the app has collected. If you agree, the NHS will then alert other app users that they are at risk of coronavirus. The app will never share who you are.

The app will advise those who have been in close contact with you to get tested. They do not need to isolate unless they experience symptoms or are told to by Track and Trace. Universal testing is now available for all and more information can be found here.

What the app cannot do

The NHS COVID-19 app uses random IDs meaning that neither the NHS nor the government can identify who you are. The app can also not:

  • use your GPS location or track where you have been
  • be used to check or monitor if you’re self-isolating
  • be used by law enforcement to identify or track you
  • see personal information on your phone, such as your messages, address book or your phone contacts

Set your data sharing preferences

It is always your choice to use the app to share data with the NHS. The data is stored on your phone and no one can see it unless you decide to share it.

You can also:

  • use app features independently
  • turn off contact tracing
  • use parts of the app without sharing any data at all (e.g. venue check in)
  • delete the app at any time

You can find more information on the NHS COVID-19 app and data sharing visit https://www.covid19.nhs.uk/privacy-and-data