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UK contact-tracing apps to start sharing data

UK gov is in talks with NCSC to ensure the process is secure and reliable

Contact-tracing apps across the UK are to begin sharing data in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus as residents travel across borders.

The Protect Scotland app is now interoperable with its Northern Irish and Jersey counterparts, meaning that Scottish residents who have downloaded the app will be able to continue using it if they travel to Northern Ireland and Jersey. 

Scotland has also developed its own data server which aims to facilitate the interoperability of all contact-tracing apps within the UK, Crown Dependencies, and Gibraltar.

Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman said that the compatibility of the apps “will allow those having to travel for essential reasons to continue to be alerted via the Protect Scotland app if they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case while in Northern Ireland or Jersey”.

“There will be no need to download the Northern Irish or Jersey app, instead the Protect Scotland app will speak to those apps behind the scenes,” she added.

Freeman also said that Scotland has reached an agreement with England and Wales and that interoperability with the regions’ app will become available “in the coming weeks”. The Protect Scotland app is also expected to become “compatible with other European apps over time”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that it is “working with Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar to make the NHS Covid-19 app interoperable, so the contact tracing element of the apps work together when app users travel to these different areas”. 

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“We are taking a phased approach to deliver this with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey connecting first and the NHS COVID-19 app in England and Wales connecting shortly after once we have all the necessary technical and security measures in place,” they said.

The DHSC told IT Pro that it is consulting with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in order to ensure the service is secure and reliable, and that it can function “to the benefit everyone using the app across the UK”.

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