Corona Tracking App One of the Most Popular Downloads in the UK

Sign King's College Hospital NHS

An app that tracks the symptoms of Covid-19 has become one of the most popular downloads in the United Kingdom. Researchers have created this non-profit initiative to learn more about the symptoms of the coronavirus. The app deals with private information, so the data is protected. But people need to be aware of potential dangers as other apps like this start surfacing in app stores.

Covid Symptom Tracker

Professor Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiologist at King’s College London, has created the app, named Covid Symptom Tracker. He has studied the genetics in twins over the last twenty-five years.  Spector created the app to collect data about the twins in his study when he learned that the university would be closed. But the professor soon realized that he could scale up his research. The app was then made available to the general public.

Privacy Protection

The app collects a lot of personal data of its users. People’s phones will share data like IP addresses and locations. Also, participants need to register sensitive information about their health. The data that is collected in this research is protected by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The app’s privacy policy lists a number of companies that handle the collected data as well.

This does not correspond with the statement on the homepage that they “are not sharing any analysis or data from the app except with researchers at King’s College London and the NHS”. The privacy policy states that researchers outside of the NHS or King’s College only receive anonymized data. There is a warning that countries that don’t adhere to the GDPR can also receive the data. These countries may not protect your data in the same way. By installing the app you give consent for all of this. However, you can, at any point in time, withdraw your consent. All sensitive information will then be deleted.

Fake Tracking Apps

There are several countries that have published apps like the Covid Symptom Tracker. The data collected can help researchers in battling the virus. But sadly cybercriminals are taking advantage of the popularity surrounding the tools. Many security companies have found apps that pretend to be the real thing. These actually contain ransomware instead. Some also have the ability to hack into people’s cameras and record video and audio. Sadly, some people are being exploited when looking for information or trying to help with research. So beware of fake apps and misinformation in this time.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.