Alarm raised over contact tracing plans to rate users for lifestyle risk

A planned development to the NHS contact tracing app which will score users’ lifestyles for COVID-19 risk is "alarming" and needs clarity, software testers have warned.

Before the launch of the app in England and Wales this week, Wolfgang Emmerich, chief executive of app developer Zuhlke Engineering, said a “personalised risk score” was being worked on, based on how many Bluetooth hits a person receives from others.

“That might actually help people get a feel for how risky a life they lead,” Emmerich said.

Adam Leon Smith, a fellow of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: “Comments from the developers about their plans to provide information to individuals about ‘how risky their life is’ based on Bluetooth contacts are alarming.

“These sorts of algorithmic scoring approaches are often inaccurate and can have unintended side effects.”

Smith, who chairs the software testing group for BCS, the UK’s professional body for IT, added: “Some data is being stored un-encrypted locally - this isn't of great concern as it appears to be just system configuration data, with the sensitive data being stored by Google and Apple."

He pointed out that as the functionality is expanded to include things like personal risk scores, this needs to be encrypted. "I'm keen to see this isn't passed to the developer's servers to establish a centralised tracking system by the backdoor."

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