Germany hopes to launch a smartphone app within weeks to help track infections with the new coronavirus, Reuters reported. Previously, Singapore’s first technology could effectively track outbreaks without infringing people’s privacy, a technology that has been widely accepted.
Germans have long been sceptical about digital surveillance. Under the country’s and EU privacy laws, it is illegal to use personal smartphone location data to track the spread of the outbreak.
But a fast-moving debate has led to a consensus among the parties that tracking the close-up Bluetooth “handshakes” between smartphones is useful and acceptable.
The app is somewhat similar to Singapore’s TraceTogether app, which records the latest status of such contacts on a smartphone. If the owner of the smartphone tests positive for the new coronavirus, the program will download the data so that the contact tracking team can quickly contact other at-risk people.
“We are confident that we will release the solution in the coming weeks,” said Heinrich Hertz Institute, a telecommunications institute in Fraunhofer. “
HHI, one of The German applied research institutes, says it is working with other European agencies to develop an app that can anonymously store the distance and duration of contact between people on mobile phones for two weeks without using location data.
“The premise of this application is to comply fully with Germany’s data protection law and to use it on a voluntary basis,” HHI said in response to the Reuters survey. “
The Robert Koch Institute, which is coordinating the health response to Germany’s new coronavirus, welcomed HHI’s ongoing technology research and development efforts but declined to comment further.