NHS contact tracing app glitch that causes disappearing false notifications is ...

Apple, Google and the UK Department for Health have still not fixed a glitch in the NHS Covid-19 app, which is resulting in thousands of users receiving phantom 'exposure notifications'.

The alerts have been popping up on both iOS and Android devices since last week, with the title: 'Possible COVID-19 exposure', 'COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING' or 'COVID-19 Exposure Notifications'.

The notifications appear to be triggered by the NHS Covid-19 app, but tapping on the notification causes it to disappear, and when you open the app itself there is no reference to the alert.

Despite being highly disconcerting, the NHS claims the notifications do not indicate that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Instead, it claims, they are 'default messages' from Google and Apple that are 'just to remind you that the functionality is on and working'.  

Apple and Google have so far neglected to explain why the notifications are appearing, and what triggers them.

The only official guidance comes from an obscure FAQ sheet on the NHS website, which also explains that the notifications cannot be turned off. 

Reports of the issue have flooded social media, with many decrying the worrying feature.

So far, the NHS COVID-19 app has been downloaded more than 16 million times in England and Wales.

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Pictured, one of the phantom notifications which was received by an iOS user earlier today. Despite being highly disconcerting, the notifications do not indicate you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus

Pictured, one of the phantom notifications which was received by an iOS user earlier today. Despite being highly disconcerting, the notifications do not indicate you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus

Apple and Google have so far neglected to explain why they are still happening and what triggers them, despite the issue being first reported last week. App users cannot turn off the alerts

Apple and Google have so far neglected to explain why they are still happening and what triggers them, despite the issue being first reported last week. App users cannot turn off the alerts

When MailOnline asked the Department of Health and Social Care about the feature, it blamed Apple and Google for the phantom notifications, claiming they are designed to alert the user that the app and API are sharing information. 

It added that any important messages from the NHS COVID-19 app will always be visible when you open the app. 

'NHS Covid-19 app users only need to self-isolate if they get a notification directly from the app advising them to do so,' DHSC said in a statement to MailOnline. 

Apple and Google both declined to comment on the issue. 

The NHS COVID-19 app is based on the software blueprint laid out for free by Apple and Google, which is also used by Covid apps in dozens of countries around the world, including those of Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The 'Protect Scotland' app is also susceptible to the ghost notifications, according to a 'How It Works' sheet, but only for Apple devices.

'Apps users with Apple devices may receive weekly notifications referring to COVID-19 Exposure Logging,' it reads.

'These messages are autogenerated by Apple iOS and do not form any part of operation of the Protect Scotland app.

'They are not a close contact alert and do not require you to self-isolate.'

Northern Ireland's Department of Health told MailOnline that the phantom notifications was an issue that plagued the country's app, called StopCOVID NI. 

However, this is no longer an 'active problem' as the app has been updated to run on the most recent API, a spokesperson told MailOnline. 

Currently, more than 1.4million people have downloaded the Scottish app and more than 400,000 have the Northern Irish app, called StopCOVID NI. 

The 'Protect Scotland' app is also susceptible to the ghost notifications, according to a 'How It Works ' sheet, but only for Apple devices. It looks like this image, according to the official website

The 'Protect Scotland' app is also susceptible to the ghost notifications, according to a 'How It Works ' sheet, but only for Apple devices. It looks like this image, according to the official website 

Despite these claims, it is clear that the so-called 'default notifications' are causing a huge amount of confusion among app users.

One anonymous source told MailOnline that they had received several of the phantom notifications, but had no further contact from either the Government's track and trace system or the app itself. 

Out of an abundance of caution, the Android user decided to self-isolate to ensure they would not spread the virus. 

It was not until 48 hours later that the user found the NHS FAQ sheet online, and realised this was unnecessary. 

Had this not happened, it could have led to two weeks of pointless quarantine.  

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, told MailOnline that unreliable notifications are at risk of following the same path as the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. 

'If the device receives too many false positives, the owner will soon disbelieve any future genuine notification, resulting in a disruption of the real use of the app,' he said.

'Causing unnecessary self-isolation could potentially increase the cost to the government, too.

'It is possible that the notifications within the app are test alerts to check response times, or other factors surrounding the devices, but without comment from the app developers, it may be difficult to know the full reason behind it.'

Reports of the issues have flooded social media over the last week, with many decrying the worrying feature

Reports of the issues have flooded social media over the last week, with many decrying the worrying feature

Sophie Barley voiced her displeasure at the app's misleading notifications. 'I do wish this Covid-19 app would stop sending 'Possible Covid Exposure' notifications and then not saying anything else. I am dramatic and paranoid enough as it is'

Sophie Barley voiced her displeasure at the app's misleading notifications. 'I do wish this Covid-19 app would stop sending 'Possible Covid Exposure' notifications and then not saying anything else. I am dramatic and paranoid enough as it is'

Users are voicing their frustration that the notifications pop up but when clicked on simply vanish, with no explanation offered

Users are voicing their frustration that the notifications pop up but when clicked on simply vanish, with no explanation offered 

Twitter is littered with people having similar experiences. 

Rosie Hedger tweeted that she had received a false alarm notification from the app. 

Sophie Barley echoed this sentiment: 'I do wish this Covid-19 app would stop sending "Possible Covid Exposure" notifications and then not saying anything else. I am dramatic and paranoid enough as it

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