After the privacy issues surrounding its first attempt at a contact tracing app, Norway is planning to develop a second, this time using the privacy-focused technology produced in Apple and Google’s joint project.
Norway is set to become the next country to develop an app for tracing the spread of COVID-19 across the population, one that will use Apple and Google’s contact tracing system. The technology, which is used to keep track of when people get in close proximity to others and whether they are at risk of infection from a carrier, will be at the heart of the new app for Norway, following the country’s troubled first attempt.
Health minister Bent Hoeie advised to Reuters on Monday that the app would use the Apple-Google system, instead of a home-grown version. “This app is purely for tracking infection, it doesn’t store data centrally,” stressed Hoeie.
The initial app, Smittestopp (translated as “infection stop”), was launched in April as an early attempt to use apps to monitor the spread of the virus, as well as to inform users if they were at risk following contact with someone who carried it.
However, as the app collected data and stored it in a central location, it came under fire from data agency Datatilsynet in June. The Guardian reports the agency issued a warning that it would stop the Norwegian Institute of Public Health from handling the data collected by the app.
The agency believed the relatively low usage of the app by 600,000 of Norway’s 5.4 million population, coupled with the limited spread of the virus in the country, meant there was too much of an invasion of privacy, disproportionate to its effectiveness. Though the health institute disagreed with the findings, it confirmed it would suspend work on the app and delete collected data.
Under the new app, the data would be decentralized and highly anonymized, with privacy informing its design. Data is stored on the device locally instead of on a server, but anonymous identifier beacons would be shared to the rest of the network if the user is positively diagnosed, only with the user’s permission.