COVID Tracker App – an opinion.

Here is my opinion on the COVID Tracker App.

TLDR – I’m using it, though I’m not convinced of its effectiveness. While you’re here – please #WearAMaskInPublic.

The COVID Tracker App is better than nothing at all

First things first. I applaud the approach the HSE has taken here. They have been very open and transparent about this project. This is a welcome change to previous state agency attempts to abuse their power over our private lives, such as the #PSC card. There is more information available here.

The app however is doing too many things. It should just do the proximity tracking and nothing more. But no, they have a self-diagnosing Sniffle-Meter, they want to gather “metrics” from your app usage and they want your telephone number. At least you don’t have to use these functions if you don’t want to. I certainly won’t be.

So how well will the proximity tracking work? Not as well as some would have you believe. The Bluetooth technology that’s being used was never designed to detect distance and so many things interfere with wireless signals that it will never be truly 100% accurate. However it *IS* better than nothing at all.

It is not a preventative measure

It will not protect friends and family as some claim, because it is *NOT* a preventative measure. It will aid the track and trace efforts of the HSE, but nothing more. If you want good preventative measures then (1) wash your hands (2) cover your coughs and sneezes (3) wear a mask in crowded situations.

I’m very careful in my daily interactions in public places. I wear a mask when I go into shops in the city. Not so much my local rural shops, as they are generally much quieter, plus I’m in and out in a minute or two. I avail of hand sanitizer at every opportunity and have my own in the car. I am very rarely in close proximity to ANYONE for more than a minute or two. I always keep my distance – 2m or more.

There will be false readings

The only living beings that spend more than a few minutes in close proximity to me are my dogs, so if I get a notification from this app, it will almost certainly be a false positive. I expect there to be a noticeable percentage of false positives.

What will be interesting will be whether many false negatives come to light. These would be where an infected person is in close contact with somebody for a lengthy period of time, passes on the virus, but the app never flags it when either person puts in the code to show they have the virus.

We’ll see how it goes, particularly if/when a second wave comes.

Closing thoughts

I think I’ll see little value from using the app, but that’s me. If you happen to spend more time than I in crowded environments, shops, busy streets, offices, public transport then you probably should use the app. If you don’t want to, then fair enough that’s your choice. I won’t judge you.

Just a final note to those sneery people who say “Using Facebook, Twitter, TikTok to give out about data privacy on the COVID Tracker app.” stop doing that please, as it is not helpful. People have a right to be concerned about potential state surveillance. We have very strong laws protecting our right to privacy and we should be careful not to let these be chipped away at. We could very quickly reach a Black Mirror dystopia if we do not keep questioning our government’s intentions.

So stay safe. Wear a mask, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance and did I mention – WEAR A MASK – please.