The deadly pandemic that lurks behind every corner all around the world, may finally be tackled. With more and more approved vaccines and the emergence of a new type of apps, can we talk about tremendous progress? The new contact tracing apps are just beginning to gain popularity across several continents. Moreover, even the government encourages their full capacity utilization. The pandemic is certainly out of control, but the omnipresence of our mobile devices may finally be useful. Instead of making us spent numerous time social networking. For instance, India’s COVID-19 tracking app Aarogya Setu became the world’s fastest-growing application, beating Pokémon Go with 50 million users in the first 13 days of its release.
Privacy concerns and diverse governmental laws for contact tracing apps
At the beginning of the app deployment process, there were many privacy concerns. Some countries were strongly opposed to the idea of this personal space invasion. Existing domestic and regional data protection regulations are applicable for protecting users’ personal information, but their solutions are not always compatible with the end goal of the contact tracing apps.
As an example, within the European Union, apps are subject to the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Moreover, many of the rights stated in the GDPR are unknown in the US laws, such as the right of data subjects to receive their personal data in a commonly used format, the right to data portability, and the right not to be subject to artificial intelligence’s unknown actions. In China, when acquiring and using personal information, the applications should obtain consent from the users in advance. Also, the data processor shall not intentionally disclose the personal information of confirmed or suspected patients with COVID-19 and their close contacts. As a whole, China’s data protection laws and regulations are mainly focused on public security concerns, while few provisions are about personal data protection. These patterns are omnipresent, thus not allowing countries to integrate a common app network.
Apple / Google Exposure Notification protocol
Of course, the major tech leaders had to intervene and try their best to optimize their technological ventures so as to fit in the needs of the contact tracing apps. On 10 April 2020, Google and Apple announced an initiative for contact tracing, which they stated would preserve privacy, based on a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy technology and privacy-preserving cryptography. According to Apple and Google, the system deploys in three stages:
- API specification and publication
- the rollout of tools to enable governments to create official privacy-preserving coronavirus tracing apps
- integration of this functionality directly into iOS and Android
Functionalities and Technologies
Nevertheless, some of the common technologies used for contact tracing apps are as follows: Location tracking by GPS, Contact tracing by GPS, Contact tracing by Bluetooth, Self-reporting by users.
Some of the features are the following: instant notifications, radar warning if you have been close to an infected person, health status (tests or vaccine appointments), infection risk-level information specific to their communities.
Although the whole world is facing the detrimental effects of the pandemic, not every state has considered implementing this new way of tackling the spread of the virus. The list of countries with active applications is presented below.
The European Union member states reach:
Austria Stopp Corona App
Croatia Stop COVID-19
The official platform in Greece against covid, called Covid Checker, is one of the first solutions in Europe against COVID-19 pandemic that was approved and made available on March 29, 2020.
Ireland COVID Tracker
Latvia Apturi Covid
Lithuania Korona Stop LT
Poland ProteGO Safe
Portugal StayAway COVID
Spain Radar Covid
Brazil “Tô de Olho”
Canada COVID Alert
Ghana GH COVID-19 Tracker App
Gibraltar BEAT Covid Gibraltar
Hong Kong LeaveHomeSafe
India Aarogya Setu
Japan Shingata Koronauirusu Sesshoku Kakunin Apuri
Jordan AMAN App
New Zealand NZ COVID Tracer
North Macedonia The government launched “StopKorona!” on April 13, 2020, becoming the first country in the Western Balkans to launch a COVID-19 tracing app.
Saudi Arabia Tabaud
Scotland Protect Scotland
Turkey Hayat Eve Sığar
United Kingdom The NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app
U.S.A 24 states and Washington, D.C., have spent millions developing and promoting the Apple and Google-based apps or systems
As a whole, with countries gradually reopening their borders for business and tourism, the effectiveness of using such apps for containing the spread of the pandemic is about to be tested. Despite being one of the first types of Covid-19 related apps to be developed, as of this moment, there is a start of the next mass development of apps. Consequently, showcasing whether a person has a vaccine or negative test by integrating QR code recognition systems. In other words, this might be referred to as the birth of the new digital passports that will come in handy whether we have to enter a country, business premises, or other state institutions. The course of the future still remains unknown, however, the technological aspects of our lives can profoundly aid the global recovery process. If you have an idea related to Covid-19 app development, don’t hesitate and drop us a line!
Ben Alsdurf, 12.01.2021, “To make Covid-19 exposure apps work, integrate them with existing popular apps like Facebook”, https://www.statnews.com/2021/01/12/covid-19-exposure-apps-integrate-with-existing-popular-apps/
Dyani Lewis, 22.02.2021, “Contact-tracing apps help reduce COVID infections, data suggest”, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00451-y
Li Du; Vera Lúcia Raposo; Meng Wang, 27.11.2020, “COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps: A Technologic Tower of Babel and the Gap for International Pandemic Control”, https://mhealth.jmir.org/2020/11/e23194/