Today the HSE launched a new Covid Tracker App and it's already had over 200,000 downloads. The App went live last night and within minutes, thousands of people had it on their phones. It's one small thing you can do to keep the fight up against Covod-19.
How do you download the Covid Tracker App?
You can download the app on an Apple or Android phone through either the App Store or the Google Play App. Simply search "Covid Tracker Ireland", and it will appear. Make sure you select the search result with “Health Service Executive Ireland” under the app name.
Then simply select install, open the app, and confirm that you are over the age of 16. This is the legal age of digital consent in Ireland.
It's absolutely free to download.
Once you've opened the app, you will need to go through just a couple of steps regarding privacy and you have the entirely optional choice of adding your phone number so the HSE can contact you if you are thought to be in need of a test. It should all take less than two minutes, and you're up and running.
Unfortunately, many have already encountered some problems in downloading the app.
The most common issue is the type of phone you. If you have an iPhone, it needs to be at least a iPhone 6s or newer (iOS 13.5 or higher). If you've an Android phone your system needs to be 6.0 or above. This generally means phones that are less than five years old will be fine.
As the app is only available in Ireland, for those who have lived abroad or changed their phone settings when abroad, your phone setting might need to be tweaked.
Irish people who have lived abroad: if you can't find the #CovidTracker app on the #GooglePlayStore, it's likely your account is still linked to the country you previously resided in and needs to be changed to #Ireland via Account -> Country & Profiles 👍
— Jamie (@ModernLepra) July 7, 2020
As you must have your Bluetooth and location services turned on at all times to use the Covid Tracker App, there is a concern that it will affect your battery live, though it's claimed this will be minimal.
How does the Covid Tracker App Work?
The app uses Bluetooth to emit a signal from your phone. When you come into close contact with another phone that is also using the app, the two phones perform a virtual handshake, storing the exchange, If you test positive for Covid-19, you enter this into the App and anyone you've come into contact with in the previous two weeks will be alerted.
It is said that 30% of the population will need to have the app running for it to be effective, while the ideal number is close to 60% for it to have a very strong impact, so it's certainly one that needs a massive uptake.
Are there Privacy issues?
With any device tracking your movements on a phone, there are going to be privacy concerns. The app itself fulfills all data protection guidelines and the code used appears to be secure, especially for a rushed job in launching the app.
Speaking to Newstalk radio, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said privacy is "right at the heart" of the Covid Tracker App.
Privacy is at the centre of this entire app. What some governments have done is they have created a central database and your phone feeds information into a central database.
This works the other way around. The information is kept on each individual phone.
If you test positive, you will have a phone call with someone and they will talk you through the individual advice.
In that call they will ask you if you have the app – there is not even a record of who has it.