A mobile phone app to assist with the process of contact tracing will be introduced here next month. 

The HSE said people will have to opt-in to use the app and discussions about how it will operate are continuing with the Data Protection Commissioner. 

But privacy experts say there needs to be more transparency about the development of the app to ensure public support.

Simon McGarr, director of Digital Compliance Europe said that the HSE needs to be more open about how the app will work and its data protection implications to gain public trust in it.

He said there are experts in technology, privacy and data protection that can help the government in "getting it right" if they are allowed to know what the HSE is planning.

Mr McGarr said unless the HSE can guarantee the trustworthiness of the app it won't be effective because people won't use it. He said this was not just a software project but a social project. 

Contact tracing technology is already being trialled in Beamount Hospital in Dublin.

The Close Encounters app is using bluetooth to anonymously log interactions between staff. If somebody tests positive for Covid-19, the app alerts those who've been in close contact with that person.

Developed by software developers machine.ie, the app is designed for use in work settings. Its creators have worked on it on a pro bono basis following a request from a consultant in the hospital. 

Dr Eoin de Barra, Infectious Disease Consultant at Beamount Hospital, said that while the app is in its early stages it could help enhance the established system of contact tracing.

He said that as social distancing in a hospital environment is difficult - and because healthcare professionals have a high volume of contacts throughout the day - this technology could assist the hospital in tracking and containing the potential spread of the virus.