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Europe Introduces Corona Tracing App Initiative

Last edited: April 1, 2020
Reading time: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

130 researchers and companies from eight different countries in Europe have come together to develop software for an app. The software will trace contact between corona patients within countries, but also across borders. Since this is a European initiative, it will be in full compliance with the GDPR.

Plan of Attack After First Wave

The name of the project is Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing, or PEPP-PT. The project has been set up to try and control the virus once national lockdowns will end. First, countries need to flatten the curve within their own borders. But there has to be a plan in place to follow, and hopefully control, the spread of the virus once this has succeeded and people start moving around again. Covid-19 will not disappear from our lives once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The researchers presented the plan to the public on Wednesday morning. We can find people from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland in the group of researchers. Any country is free to join, even outside of Europe. The researchers will build a base for an app. Every country can then continue building from there.

Compliant With the GDPR

The European Commission had previously suggested that they could track people by using the location data of their smartphone. That plan was met with a lot of resistance, since tracking on this scale is not compliant with the GDPR. The GDPR makes it difficult for countries in Europe to share location data or process any personal information.

The highest priority in building the software that was presented was to guarantee the privacy of the users. The researchers hope that their software can become the worldwide standard for tracing apps that are already out there. The reason that they have only created a base for an app is that they hope that it will be used to update the existing apps. Only then will it be possible to create a database big enough to actually be successful in warning people and stop the rapid spread of the virus.

Bluetooth Contact

The program that was presented on Wednesday has been built in such a way that it uses Bluetooth to interact with other phones. A bluetooth connection can only be made when two phones are very close to each other. The communication between phones can then be used to alert people when they have come into close proximity with someone who has tested positive.

Phones that have the app installed will register every contact that has been made with another cell-phone. If someone contracts the virus they can use the app to tell people they have been in contact with them during the incubation period. The software will then advise these people that they should probably quarantine themselves. This all made possible with a central server and anonymized coding.

There have been other countries who created apps that share information through Bluetooth instead of making use of location data. Singapore was the first county to introduce bluetooth data-sharing in an app. They were ahead of everybody, introducing the TraceTogether app mid-March. A the tracking app presented in Germany on Monday turns out to already make use of the PEPP-PT platform. The Irish government is also working on a similar app.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.

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