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European Cross-Border Contact-Tracing App to be Launched

David Paul

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contact tracing

The app, being developed by a pan-European group out of Switzerland, will record location data allowing a user to know when they have been in contact with COVID-19 carriers across Europe.

A new pan-European consortium is set to release a GDPR compliant opt-in contact tracing app that will inform users if they have been close to a person carrying COVID-19 to help slow the spread of the virus.

The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) group’s platform works in a similar way to Singapore’s TraceTogether app, allowing COVID-19 carries with symptoms to upload the relevant information about their condition to the app, which is transferred to nearby users through Bluetooth so that others can self-isolate if they recently came into contact.

Countries such as China and South Korea have used contact-tracing successfully to slow the spread of the virus, and have now reduced their cases significantly, while countries such the UK and the US are seeing cases rise with little to no tracing in place.

In a notice, the PEPP-PT group commented: “Experience in some Asian countries has shown that widespread testing, combined with isolation of confirmed cases and quarantine of their contacts, is an important part of a successful control strategy.

“The current bottlenecks in testing capacity are likely to be eliminated in the coming weeks. The challenge then will be to isolate confirmed cases and their contacts in a way that is compatible with our shared understanding of privacy in European democracies.”

The group published a manifesto stating that contact-tracing is the best way to track cases and avoid economic collapse: “The only possibility to achieving these goals is to track physical proximity interaction and immediately isolate infected cases and quarantine their contacts.

“This is the way everybody – relatively short term – can return to almost normal social and economic life.”

There is a degree of uncertainty surrounding privacy when it comes to contact-tracing apps, which can collect data on an individual.

An app is also soon to be released in the UK, but recently more than 100 organisations, including Amnesty International, the World Wide Web Foundation and Open Rights Group, raised concerns about the use of big data and surveillance technologies to track and monitor populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A major concern was the opportunity for countries to use the pandemic as a cover to introduce new laws which permanently restrict civil liberties, as well as provoke a “surge in discrimination and disproportionately affect minority groups.”

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Even so, other countries are now beginning to release their versions of contact-tracing apps.

India has launched its “AarogyaSetu” app which monitors user movement and calculates the risk for others.

In an announcement, the Indian government commented: “It will enable people to assess for themselves the risk for their catching the coronavirus infection. It will calculate this based on their interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.

“Once installed in a smartphone through an easy and user-friendly process, the app detects other devices with AarogyaSetu installed that come in the proximity of that phone. The app can then calculate the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters if any of these contacts have tested positive.

“The App will help the Government take necessary timely steps for assessing the risk of spread of COVID-19 infection and ensuring isolation where required.”

Digital India, the nation’s digital transformation agency, is the source of the app. The agency has promoted the app extensively, and it has already been downloaded over ten million times since its late Friday (April 3rd) launch.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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