On today’s episode of The Lock-In Podcast we’re talking about Ireland’s new Covid Tracker mobile app, which was launched this week and has been installed by over a million users so far. Daragh O Brien from Castlebridge joins us to discuss the likely effectiveness of the app, and the data protection issues involved.

Click on the player below to play the podcast audio (download: 20:08; 12MB; MP3), or scroll down to watch the video.


Castlebridge, Daragh’s company, specialises in Data Privacy, Information Governance and Information Quality Management. As the Covid crisis progressed, they’ve observed a step change in organisations’ approach to data and an urgent demand for practical solutions.

We’ve gone through the equivalent of five years of evolution in how organisations think about using technology and working online and working with data. We’ve done that in four and a half months.

In reponse to this demand, Castlebridge has joined forces with Blacknight to present a free webinar called Doing Business Online – The Data Dimension, which will be held on 29 July.

Regarding the Covid Tracker App, Daragh gives it “a qualified thumbs-up at the moment”, despite his reservations after research at Trinity College cast doubt on the use of Bluetooth to detect close contact for disease transmission. As one of the inventors of Bluetooth said, that isn’t what they designed it to do.

“However, the HSE has gone about this in quite a good way. There’s been quite a high level of transparency. They’ve published the source code for how the app works. They’ve done a reasonably good DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment). They’ve published the Data Protection Commision’s comments on their original DPIA and identified how they’ve incorporated them. From that point of view, I’m not feeling the normal sort of cynical fear and nervousness that I get around public-sector data projects, because they’ve put an awful lot of effort into trying to build the trust that’s needed so that people will start using the app.”

The initial 90-day evaluation period for the app can be seen as a key test of the authorities’ commitment to good governance, he believes.

“They’ve undertaken that if the app isn’t meeting its objectives and if it isn’t working and if it isn’t effective, they’ll turn it off. That’s the next big test for the HSE in this, and for the Department of Health. If, in 90 days time we find that there’s a massive amount of false positives or false negatives on the exposure notification; if people are drowning in push notifications about close contact that they couldn’t possibly have had; that will damage the app; that will damage the trust, but the thing that will really damage trust is if there isn’t a decision taken to pull the plug on that, because that’s what they’ve undertaken to do.”

The Lock-In Podcast is published every Tuesday. Subscribe via GoLoudApple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts or RSS, or on video on YouTube.

Register for free for Daragh’s webinar, Doing Business Online – The Data Dimension, on 29 July.


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