After months in development, the Irish government launched its tracking application last Tuesday (7) to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. The app is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded for free through this link.
It works like this: the application registers (anonymously) all the cell phones of people who cross you using Bluetooth. If you stay for more than 15 minutes within 2 meters of an infected individual, you will receive an alert advising you of the risk of infection. Of course, this will only work if the other person also has the app installed and has been tested by the HSE.
The system is not perfect. In fact, no tracking technology is 100% accurate. The application does not take into account, for example, people who were close to each other, but in different rooms, separated by a wall. Still, the system will help a lot in the contact tracing process, which identifies and notifies people at risk of being infected by the virus, and will also help to predict possible outbreaks of the disease in certain regions.
It is important to clarify that the application runs in the background, not interfering in any way the use of your cell phone, and uses very little battery, as it uses BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) antennas for communication.
In addition, all data sharing takes place anonymously. Each individual (or phone) sends and receives an anonymous ID, consisting of letters and numbers, which contains information about the distance between one device and another, and how long they have been together. No one will know your name, the name of who you met, or the places you passed.
A recent study by the University of Limerick and NUI Galway showed that 82% of Irish people are willing to install a tracking application on their devices to help combat Covid-19, although many have expressed concerns about privacy issues. The percentage is much higher than in the United States, where only 29% of the population was in favor of using technology.