Police in England have been told not to download the NHS Covid-19 app - here's why

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 1:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 2:01 pm
Police have been told not to download the NHS Covid-19 app - here's why (Photo: Shutterstock)
Police have been told not to download the NHS Covid-19 app - here's why (Photo: Shutterstock)

Police officers are being told not to install the NHS Covid-19 app on their work smartphones, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has confirmed.

They may also be exempt from the self-isolation rules if they receive an alert from the app on their personal phones.

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The policy applies to all officers, both in public-facing roles and those in office positions.

Why have they been told not to download it?

While an unnamed source told the BBC that the policy was informed by security concerns, the NPCC played down that suggestion.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for the NSPCC said, "Police forces use a variety of mobile devices with different system restrictions.

"It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country, and it is for this reason that we have recommended that officers and staff download the app to their personal, as opposed to work devices, rather than any suggestion of security implications."

It’s also been reported that police officers from Lancashire constabulary have been told to go through the police force’s dedicated Covid-19 helpline.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokeswoman for Lancashire Constabulary said, "The health and wellbeing of our officers, staff and the public remains our priority.

"Members of staff, like all members of the public, are personally able to download the Track and Trace application should they choose to do so. Guidance provided to staff within the workplace remains in line with the national NPCC position."

Is privacy an issue?

The NPCC previously expressed concern over officers being required to share information about their movements and activities with human contract tracers, due to the potential ramifications on undercover and other sensitive operations.

However, in the case of the app, this would not be an issue as it protects the users identity.

As of 28 September, the Covid-19 app had been downloaded more than 12 million times, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying, “I want to thank everyone who has played their part in the fastest download of an app in British history, 12.4 million downloads as of noon today.”