News that a ‘coronavirus tracker’ has been automatically installed on phones has been branded “incorrect” by a fact-checking organisation.
It comes after it was reported this week that a new feature called ‘COVID-19 Exposure Logging’ had been downloaded onto devices without the permission of users.
The software was reportedly installed on iPhones last month and has since been further rolled-out.
It is said to work as a contact-tracing feature and alerts people who may have come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus – with over 300,000 confirmed cases in the UK so far.
Phone users can find the feature in their settings, though the location depends on the device:
- iOS users can find it by navigating to ‘Privacy’ and then ‘Health’
- Android users can find it through their ‘Google Settings’
The news led many to question the automatic download of a tracking app on their phones, with the installation branded “surreptitious” and “sneaky” on social media.
However, according to the fact-checker Full Fact this isn’t actually the case – and the newly-discovered software isn’t an app itself.
The UK’s independent fact checking organisation said that “the claim that the app has been automatically downloaded is incorrect” – following similar reports of the installation on Facebook earlier this week.
It explained that Android and iOS phones have instead had the Exposure Notification API introduced.
Full Fact revealed that this isn’t an app itself and is actually technology developed by both Apple and Google to allow coronavirus tracking apps – made by public health bodies – to work across various devices.
The fact-checker added that those who don’t have a tracing app installed should notice that the API is turned off by default – and users will need to download an official tracing app to activate it.
Public health authorities have yet to roll-out their official apps though – at least outside of the Isle of Wight – and so for now, the API should not be in use.
Full Fact said that even when the official tracing apps are introduced across the UK, phone users will be able to turn the API off in their settings.
And additionally downloading such apps will reportedly not be mandatory – with the NHS stating that it will be up to individuals themselves whether they get it.