Gary Burgess: Why I've got the Covid app

Jersey's Covid Alert app has been launched today. Credit: ITV News

Jersey has its own Covid-19 contact tracing app. It’s called JERSEY COVID ALERT.

I’m one of a number of people who were given access a few weeks ahead of today’s (Wednesday) formal launch to be able to properly understand how it works to help report on it effectively.

One of my immediate concerns, upfront, was privacy. Is this a Big Brother app that knows your every whereabouts and can then lead to the authorities knocking on your door and forcing you into quarantine?

In a nutshell: No it’s not.

The app, whether on iOS or Android, runs using the new global standard system designed by the big phone manufacturers, that allows one official app per jurisdiction to use their technology.

You may have read about the success of the Scottish or Irish apps. This is Jersey’s equivalent.

The app is available in your phone app stores. Credit: ITV News

It works in quite a neat way.

Your phone generates a random piece of code. It constantly uses Bluetooth to check whether other app users are within a couple of metres of you for 15 minutes or longer. If so, it keeps a log of the other phone’s random code.

Then, IF somebody tests positive for Covid-19 and they have the app, the contact tracing team will offer them a unique six figure code. IF you choose to enter that code into your app, it will then alert anybody considered in need of contact tracing.

That’s the smart part of the system, it’s for you as an app user to choose what happens, rather than “the authorities” diving into your phone and using your information.

There are downsides to that. For it to be effective it relies on lots of people loading it onto their phones. And it relies on people choosing to enter that code if they test positive.

But the experience elsewhere is that people are civic-minded enough to do the right thing.

Oh, and what do you do the rest of the time once you’ve got it? Nothing. It just sits there doing its thing in the background. It doesn’t need to be clicked or opened. That for me is the smartest part of all.

If, like me, you’re somebody who wants to continue to do all they can to keep both yourself and others safe, then – while I’m instinctively never comfortable publicly recommending a product or service – in this case I’d say: get the app.

Search JERSEY COVID ALERT in your App Store.