Jess Kelly
Jess Kelly

16.10 21 Oct 2020


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The HSE has confirmed that close contact alerts on the COVID Tracker app were delayed on some Apple devices.

It comes after an issue discovered by Newstalk was brought to the HSE's attention.

An iPhone user went to 'Settings > Exposure Notifications' on his iPhone 8 and found a message, which read ‘Your exposure log has not been checked in 14 days'.

Meanwhile, 'exposure check' data (which records all requests to check the exposure log over the past 14 days) on some iPhones shows a delay in updates between early to mid September and yesterday.

It's been confirmed this was the result of an issue with the app and has now been resolved.

After contacting the HSE and working with the COVID Tracker app team over a number of days, a fix has been found.

While it is not clear as to how many people have been impacted by this issue, the HSE say it has now been resolved and will not require any further action from users.

In a statement, the HSE said the issue was caused "by an authentication token not synchronising correctly within the app".

They said:  "This led to failures in exchanges and downloading of files between the mobile phone app and the IE key registry.

"This was been fixed on the server-side which corrects this problem for any affected devices and resolves the issue.

"This is not an issue that has been reported widely to the HSE.

"Once it was brought to our attention, we took immediate action to investigate and we are now improving monitoring of the backend database to ensure better visibility at a global level and to identify any similar issues in the future."

The HSE said the issue is limited to iOS only, and "does not require an app update or any user intervention" to resolve.

They're also promising an app update next week which will improve their ability to identify any similar issues.

The COVID Tracker app was launched in July, and currently has 1.3 million active users.

Almost 7,000 users of the app have been sent a close contact alert.

You can read the full statement from the HSE below:

“The issue was caused by an authentication token not synchronising correctly within the app. This led to failures in exchanges and downloading of files between the mobile phone app and the IE key registry. This was been fixed on the server-side which corrects this problem for any affected devices and resolves the issue. This does not impact the EU interoperability project that went live earlier this week, which will increase the number of keys downloaded as it includes Germany and Italy.

We are introducing improved validation in the next release of the app (next week). Along with this, we are improving monitoring of the backend database to ensure better visibility at a global level and to identify any similar issues.

The issue is localised to iOS only. The fix does not require an app update or any user intervention.

This is not an issue that has been reported widely to the HSE. Once it was brought to our attention, we took immediate action to investigate and we are now improving monitoring of the backend database to ensure better visibility at a global level and to identify any similar issues in the future.

Any affected phone would still have exchanged beacons with other phones (i.e. normal operation). The issue impacted the process by which a phone checked to see if it had a close contact with another phone.

This process involves downloading files containing Random IDs from people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The phone then compares these IDs to other IDs it has collected. This aspect impacted any affected devices.

The app is designed to catch up on any missed files it hasn't downloaded if for any reason the phone is offline (no connection, switched off etc.). This means that any impacted devices will 'catch up' on uploads from previous days.

Close contact alerts were delayed until the downloading issue was resolved. We been tracking the metrics to see if there was any change and the ratio of close contact alerts to random ID uploads hasn't changed. It is usually 2-2.5 alerts for each upload. This would indicate that it did not have an impact on this.”

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice
Main image: File photo of COVID Tracker app. Picture by: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

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