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NHS app ‘may not work if your iPhone is dormant’

TECH experts have warned the new ‘track and trace’ coronavirus app may not work even if it is downloaded by enough people.

Trials have begun on the Isle of Wight of the smartphone app developed by the NHS’s digital arm NHSX.

Anyone who spends more than 15 minutes close to someone who later displays symptoms should receive a message advising them to get a test.

But Dr Michael Veale, a lecturer in digital rights at University College London, warned most close contacts will be missed because most phones will switch the app to dormant. ‘Two people who have their iPhones locked in their pockets will not register as contacts with each other,’ he said. ‘A room of people with iPhones locked in their pockets will not register with each other unless an Android (phone) is in the room.’

This glitch also applies to the newest Android phones.

Ministers are hoping for an 80 per cent take-up for the app, which will send anonymised data to central government.

Most EU countries are creating apps that only alert the phone’s user but UK app users will not be able to demand their data be deleted even after the pandemic. Computer security lecturer Prof Mark Ryan said: ‘We have to be sure proximity tracing technology does not lead to unfettered surveillance.’ Areeq Chowdhury, of think tank WebRoots Democracy, said 60 per cent of over-65s — the most at-risk group — do not have a smartphone.

NHSX’s Matthew Gould said the app ‘balances privacy with the need for public authorities to get insight into what contacts are more risky’. The Department of Health was contacted for comment.

VACCINE researchers are being targeted by hackers from rogue nations aiming to steal data. The scientists have been urged to change easy to guess passwords by the National Cyber Security Centre to fend off such hacks. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said universities, pharmaceutical companies and local government had also reported the ‘particularly venal’ attacks. ‘There will always be some who seek to exploit a crisis for their own malicious ends,’ he told the daily Downing Street briefing.