Apple and Google have blocked a new update to the NHS COVID-19 app on iOS and Android because it breaks rules about collecting location data.
The new update to the contact-tracing app, which garnered much publicity last year due to its development back-and-forths, delayed launch, and ‘software glitches’, would have asked users to upload venue check-ins, thereby sharing location data.
The update was set to be released to coincide with the reopening of outdoor hospitality venues in England, with pub gardens and terraces being allowed to welcome back guests on 12 April. If a person tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting a venue, other people who had also visited the place could be alerted of the possibility that they too might have contracted the virus.
However, the function never made it to users’ phones, as the BBC reports that the update had been blocked due to a breach of Apple and Google’s joint Exposure Notifications rules, which bans apps from sharing “location data from the user's device with the public health authority, Apple, or Google”.
The NHS COVID-19 app must comply with the regulations due to it being based on the decentralised API model developed by Apple and Google, which stores the information collected through the app on users’ devices and only shares only a limited amount of data with epidemiologists monitoring the pandemic.