Germany changed course on Sunday over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries.
Countries are rushing to develop apps to give a detailed picture of the risk of catching the coronavirus, as the chain of infection is proving hard to break because it can be spread by those showing no symptoms.
Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a joint statement that Berlin would adopt a “decentralised” approach to digital contact tracing, thus abandoning a home-grown alternative that would have given health authorities central control over tracing data.
In Europe, most countries have chosen short-range Bluetooth “handshakes” between mobile devices as the best way of registering a potential contact, even though it does not provide location data.
But they have disagreed about whether to log such contacts on individual devices or on a central server – which would be more directly useful to existing contact tracing teams that work phones and knock on doors to warn those who may be at risk.
Under the decentralised approach, users could opt to share their phone number or details of their symptoms – making it easier for health authorities to get in touch and give advice on the best course of action in the event they are found to be at risk.
This consent would be given in the app, however, and not be part of the system’s central architecture.
© Thomson Reuters 2020