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Google says a fix for Android coronavirus tracking delays is on the way

Google says a fix for Android coronavirus tracking delays is on the way


The Android issues have been affecting coronavirus tracking apps worldwide

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A Google logo sits at the center of ominous concentric circles
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google says it’s working to investigate issues with Android apps that use the Android Exposure Notifications System to track the spread of COVID-19. An issue began causing delays for apps using the system, resulting in longer load times and delays in notifications for regular exposure checks. The NHS COVID-19 app that’s used across England and Wales is affected by this Android issue, with a loading notification stuck in the notifications area for many users.

“We are aware of an issue affecting Android apps developed using the Android Exposure Notifications System,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge in a statement earlier on Wednesday. “Our engineers are investigating the issue.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Google tells The Verge it’s issued a fix, but it may take some time for issues to subside, though Google says it’ll work with any affected app developers directly to remedy the issue if it persists.

“Late in the evening on January 12, an issue with the Exposure Notifications System on Android began causing delays in the checking of potential exposures for those with apps installed,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We have issued a fix. It may take a few hours for devices to catch up, and in some cases we will work directly with developers to help with recovery. The issue did not cause the loss of any data or potential exposures.”

Google also provided some clarity on the issue. The company tells The Verge the issue was with the signature key configuration, which meant exposure notification apps ran into issues downloading diagnosis keys from their key servers. This resulted in notification delays, a serious issue given the important of timely contact tracing efforts in stemming the spread of any positive COVID-19 cases. Google advises users not clear their storage in the app while the fix is going out.

The NHS COVID-19 notification issue.
The NHS COVID-19 notification issue.

These issues have been affecting all apps worldwide that use the Android Exposure Notifications System. The CoronaMelder app in the Netherlands is also experiencing issues. More than 10 million people in England and Wales downloaded the NHS COVID-19 app in September, but it’s not clear how many total downloads have been made to date or the split between iOS and Android.

Google first introduced its coronavirus tracking system for Android in April 2020. The app uses Bluetooth to anonymously broadcast data and help enable tracking and tracing programs worldwide.

Update January 13th 10:18AM: Article updated with details on the CoronaMelder app also experiencing issues.

Update January 13th, 2:45PM ET: Added a new statement from Google saying the company has pushed out a fix to solve the delays. The headline has also been updated to reflect this fact.