The first thing I read was “battery-saving Bluetooth low energy” (from the “app-permissions” page), and I thought “DAMN, this is some top-notch bullshit!”.
Spinning Bluetooth as some sort of energy-saving tech boon when in reality it’s a technology which has bearly changed for 20 years, really is a work of top-notch bullshit.
The claims made about Bluetooth remind me of the scammy “electronic foot detox” machines which are sold on eBay. These devices work by tricking people who dont understand the technology into believing it does something, which is just like the silly Bluetooth claim!
This short blog will look at the images of the soon to be released NHSX ‘contact-racing’ app which Government have released to the Media. As of yet, a day before public testing begins, all we really know about the app is that it has been commissioned for Government, seemingly without tendering, and has been developed by a friend of the PM’s special advisor Dominic Cumming called Marc Warner.
Werner owns and operates a company called “Faculty” and has historic ties with Dominic Cummings as both were members of the Vote Leave team, along with Marks brother Ben Werner, another famous member of the Vote Leave team . Werner and Cummings are rumoured to have worked on various AI-based data harvesting projects, the most famous them being Vote Leaves fake competition, which promoted a £50 Million prizes, but in reality serves as a data-harvesting operation.
(we can speculate on any potential corruption that may have happened in the tendering and commissioning of this app in the future.)
NHSX – App Permissions page (iOS)
NHSX “Status – initial” (iOS)
Simple enough I thought, are you ill, yes or no? One strange sentence from this page mentioned that “If you dont have any symptom, there’s no need to do anything right now – feel free to use other apps as normal”. It’s hard to tell if this message is an indication that the app will affect other apps, or if it’s advising the user of it running in the background.
NHSX “Onboarding Start” (iOS)
NHSX “How the app works” (iOS)
OK, this is where we get our first real insight into how the app works. When talking about the actual ‘contact-tracing’ it says “the NHS” will let people know they have been in contact, NOT the app?! This sentence begs the question “what exactly is the point of this app?” as if the app is not the part which does the actual contact tracing, then, in reality, the app serves solely to harvest data which at this stage could be anything from location data and your contacts to any data on your device, the reality is we just dont know yet and Government has not told us yet.
This page seems straightforward enough. Enter your postcode to tell the system what street you live on. The straightforward-ness quickly vanished when I read the small print.
NHSX – National Cyber Security Centre involvement
“Data privacy and security paramount, with National Cyber Security Centre involved in app development”
If Security is paramount to such a level that the National Cyber Security Centre is involved, exactly what sort of data will they be harvesting from our devices.
In conclusion, the media Government has made available thus far, it’s impossible to tell exactly what data they are going to use to trace people. The only lasting impression I have of the app so far is that the “energy-saving Bluetooth” claim reads more like a description off one of those scammy electric devices for purifying blood.
All we do know about the NHSX application at this moment is that…
- It will track who you contact via (Bluetooth) interacting.
- They make a silly claim about Bluetooth being energy saving.
- We dont know what Data it will harvest, but the data will be shared with the National Cyber Security Centre.
- The App doesn’t actually do any of the contact-tracing!
An interesting tidbit I thought I would throw-in at the end, is a quirk of Bluetooth I learned back in my days working as an O2 Guru, and something with converges with my previous report that the NHS Contact tracing application would look to harvest our contact lists from our phones (click here). Bluetooth is the most commonly used technology for the sharing of “contacts” from mobile devices, and it just so happens that Bluetooth is the technology of choice for this purpose of transferring contact lists from one device to another.
Needless to say that unless it is made very clear what data this phone aims to harvest and use, I will not be using it and wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy.
This can all be done without effecting our privacy! The system which all mobile phones in the UK run in already has the ability to used cells and IMEI’s to track people without needing our personal data!
(And then there is the rub, if this app does nothing then why the hell did Mark Warner get paid so much to make it?).