Experiments in Europe using technology to fight the coronavirus have achieved some early success: millions of people have downloaded smartphone tracker apps, and hundreds have uploaded the results of positive COVID-19 tests.
However, so far, most European countries lack conclusive evidence that their apps (identifying close ties through Bluetooth connections with nearby users) are actually before warning people who might be infected with the disease. Can infect others.
the reason? Design choices made by the government and its application developers to protect people’s privacy.
In the 11 European regions that use Alphabet’s Google and Apple-designed architectures, many applications have been “blindly” warned of possible exposure to COVID-19 flowing through the system.
For example, in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health admitted that “the effectiveness of the SwissCovid application is difficult to measure due to the’design privacy’.”
Weaknesses confuse some app advocates. They pointed out that the Apple-Google framework does allow some data to be collected while preventing the government from tracking its citizens.
University College London (University College London) lecturer Michael Veale (Michael Veale) said: “I find it very strange that many systems are designed to be unable to monitor and evaluate.”
Ireland, which uses the same standards, is showing the benefit of reducing its obsession with privacy. Its Covid Tracker app has been downloaded by 30% of the population, and it counts how many people have uploaded positive test results and how many people have received notifications.
Colme Harte, technical director of NearForm, a software development company that created Irish applications, said: “From this perspective, we are seeing the entire end-to-end process and success.”
As of July 28, in the first three weeks of the application’s operation, a total of 58 users had conducted positive tests and 137 close contact alerts were generated. Among them, 129 chose the follow-up call of the Irish Contact Tracking Group.
Although this number is small, it reflects the low level of influenza-like infections in Ireland to some extent, but publishing these numbers helps to show that people can contribute to the fight against the epidemic by downloading the app.
Harte told Reuters: “This helps to build trust and is worth the real installation of the app.” The Irish app inspired Northern Ireland and Gibraltar derivatives, while Scotland chose NearForm to develop its own app.
In other parts of Europe, the data is much rougher.
In response to a query from Reuters, the Robert Koch Institute, the German Federal Agency for Disease Control, said: “It is impossible to say how many people have received risk notifications.” This is because the inspection alert is carried out on a single device. This method is called decentralization.
The Corona Warn App in Germany has been downloaded more than 16 million times, but the download speed has slowed down since some smartphones sent it to sleep to save battery usage. The problem was quickly resolved, but prompted key media reports.
According to weekly data from the Robert Koch Institute, so far, 1,052 people who have tested positive have obtained a one-time code to upload to the system. But there is no way to know if they really did this.
Switzerland is publishing daily updates on positive test results, active users and uploads-now running at just over 10 times a day. However, again, the risk notification cannot be monitored in its version of the Google-Apple installer. Both companies declined to comment for this article.
In Asia, China and South Korea have opted for more intrusive location-based contact tracking, while Singapore tried a Bluetooth app that uses a central server and does not work due to the privacy settings of the Apple iPhone.
At the same time, other European countries/regions also use investigation as a solution.
In Denmark, the Staten Institute for Serum Infectious Diseases published a survey last week and found that 48 people had booked COVID-19 tests online after receiving a risk warning from the Smittestop app.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said: “The app should serve as a digital complement to our efforts in infection tracking.” “This is good news. We now also have data showing that the app works and helps find unknown contacts. people.”
© Thomson Reuters 2020