A couple of days since the launch of the NHS test and trace app and it continues to be in the news.
The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones has written an article that the abandoned initial app ‘worked on more phones.’ True, perhaps, but there is a balance between accuracy and privacy. Plenty of people don’t want to download the new app that uses the Exposure Notification API. How many would want to download one that collected information centrally as the original one did?
The complaint today is that you can’t acknowledge a test from the NHS or Public Health England (pillar 1 tests), only from the private (‘Nightingale’) testing centres — the pillar 2 tests.
In contrast, on Wednesday people were expecting it to be very easy to enter a false positive test into the app and cause a barrage of unneeded messages to isolate.
To avoid the latter, you need some way to authenticate a test result.
Now, I don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes, but I can easily see why it might be easier to set up a regime at the private labs working under contract than it is for the “on demand” tests being performed in the NHS.
The pillar 2 tests that can be entered into the app account for two-thirds of the testing capacity, so whilst it is essential to get a way of entering the pillar 1 tests into the app (and even the pillar 4 statistical tests), this does not make the app useless.
I’d love to hear what the plans are for getting the pillar 1 and 4 tests into the app, but I can see how we got here, and I’d tend to think it is more likely to be because it hasn’t been possible to get the logistics co-ordinated in time rather than the commercial conspiracy theories that are doing the rounds.
Update (ironically from the correspondent mentioned above):
Update 2. Storm in a teacup?