The Department of Health has confirmed that field trials have begun on a new contact tracing app, which is aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19. 

The Department said the trials are expected to last around two weeks.

Members of An Garda Síochána are being used for the field trial, as the Department says they are one of the few groups who can currently move freely around the country. 

This will give a better idea of how the app would work across the country the department says.

The app will use bluetooth technology and will work on a decentralised system, where the information will be stored on a person's phone rather than centrally by any government agency.

The information will be used as part of a large-scale testing and tracing system for Covid-19.

People will be able to share a close contact their phone has saved and also whether to share the symptoms they have recorded themselves on their phone.

The Department of Health says this will work on a triple layer of consent where you can essentially download the app, you can choose to record contacts or symptoms and then you can choose to share this information or not.

The information would be used by the HSE to quickly trace contacts and map and predict the spread of Covid-19 to others in the community in the phases ahead.

The app is a collaboration between the Department of Health and the HSE who say they have completed a programme of research to assist with the development of the app and its role in contact tracing. 

They say they have also used best practice guidelines as set out by the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 


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Meanwhile, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is reiterating its call for the Government to provide "full transparency" on the new contact tracing app.

Speaking on RTÉs News at One, Elizabeth Farries of the ICCL said an expert group has yet to receive a response to this request, except an acknowledgement of the request itself. 

She said specific details should be made available so that independent experts have the opportunity to review its workings to ensure that the app respects human rights and privacy.

Up to now, the ESRI have also been gathering research from a small group of people to see how user friendly the app is and how it will function. 

Once the field trial phase is complete the HSE and the Department of Health will look at the information gathered and see what changes need to be made.

At the same time, a data protection assessment of the app is being carried out and this will be published before the app goes live. 

The source code, which will give technical information about how exactly the app will work and what information it will use, will also be published before the app goes live.

Other research reports documenting the development of the app will also be published. 

There will also be a public information campaign, which will be run by the HSE, to inform people of how the app will work, what technology it will use and how the information will be used.