Not So Fast


Yesterday’s The Guardian


This afternoon.

Via The Irish Examiner:

Ireland’s Covid Tracker smartphone application is sharing information which could lead to location tracking with Google at least every 20 minutes, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

A new research paper released by the school of computer science and statistics at Trinity College Dublin details the information that is shared – which includes IP address, the handset’s IMEI (its unique identifier which can be used to block its usage), serial number, phone number, and email address – and describes the revelation as being “extremely troubling from a privacy viewpoint”.

The HSE had insisted that the app is completely anonymous and does not track location data.

However, the HSE only controls the public health side of the app, with the exposure notification segment being administered by both Google and Apple via their Google/Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service.


“The HSE has been celebrated in Ireland and beyond for their transparent approach to developing the Covid Tracker app,” said Elizabeth Farries, director of information rights with The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL.)

However, Google Play Services represent a significant component of the app. Most people, even app developers, are unaware of this level of invasiveness,” she added.


It has also emerged that the HSE’s side of the app is collating information via the metrics it receives from users which could be used to link all requests sent from the same phone together, akin to a ‘cookie’ footprint left by a computer as it surfs the internet.


Covid-19 tracking app sharing possible location data with Google (Cianan Brennan, Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: Cheap, popular and it works: Ireland’s contact-tracing app success (The Guardian)

Previously: Hapless App


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13 thoughts on “Not So Fast

  1. Cian

    Tabloid spin.
    “Covid Tracker smartphone application is sharing information which could lead to location tracking with Google at least every 20 minutes, the Irish Examiner can reveal.” is false.

    The Covid Tracker smartphone application does not share data with Google.

    When you turn on location shares on your phone this shares information with Google.
    To get a COVID tracker to work on Android needs location sharing switched on.

    If you always had location (GPS) switched on, then adding Covid Tracker doesn’t change anything.
    If you always had location (GPS) switched off, but when you adding the Covid Tracker (and have turned on GSP) then you are now sharing tracking info with Google that you didn’t previously.

    The issue is with how Google/Android force you to have GPS switched on to use their Covid Bluetooth/phone tracking not with the HSE’s app. Apple implemented the same Covid Bluetooth/phone tracking without forcing the user to turn on GPS.

  2. Harry

    By the by, it is my understanding that the HSE shared the source code of the app with the NHS for free, just to be sound like.

    I wonder will we get any credit for the likes of this, if true. People like Paddy Cosgrove should understand that this kind of thing happens a lot, even if not on Twitter!!

  3. John

    Turning on location sharing on your phone shares your location.
    Who would have thought? Not I!
    I thought the bees were tracking me through the LED light bulbs working on 5G.*

    *disclaimer, I was only half listening at that rally in town the other week but I’m pretty sure thats the gist of it.

  4. Formerly known as

    The Australian app has not helped find one extra contact. It cost $2M to make and they spent $64M on advertising. It is OK though, because a donor to the governing party got the contract.

    1. Rob_G

      Are there not practically zero cases in Australia for the last while? It might have too small population to work on to produce anything meaningful.

  5. Dee

    If Google wants to know what aimless and pointless places I’ve been today they are welcome to that info, or maybe that’s just me.

  6. Jake38

    I’m happy for Google to know I was in the local shop yesterday,if it means I’m less likely to drown in my own secretions in a months time.

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