Contact tracing

30 Jul 2020
As part of efforts to make returning to campus safer, US universities are considering or implementing mandates requiring students to install exposure notification apps, quarantine enforcement programs, and other unproven new technologies, risking exacerbating existing inequalities in access to both
10 Aug 2020
Manchester-based VST Enterprises is developing a rapid COVID-19 testing kit intended to help restart stadium sporting events. The results of tests, which fans will take the day before the event they wish to attend and provide results within ten minutes, will be stored in VSTE’s V-Health Passport, a
22 Jul 2020
By mid-July, the UK’s contact tracing system was still failing to contact thousands of people in areas with England’s highest infection rates. In London, with the sixth-highest infection rate in England, only 47% of at-risk people were contacted; in partially locked-down Leicester, the rate was 65%
10 Jul 2020
By late June, two months after its launch, Australia’s A$1.5 million CovidSafe app had failed to help authorities identify even a single contact of a confirmed case. In the states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania the app had not picked up any contacts that had not already
24 Jun 2020
The UK government has instructed bars, restaurants, hairdressers, and churches to record visitors’ contact details when they begin to reopen on July 4 so they can be contacted later if necessary for contact tracing and testing. However, the industry was given no guidance on how to take care of the
25 Jun 2020
A study of 17 Android mobile contact tracing apps from 17 different countries found that most government-sponsored contact tracing apps are insecure and risk exposing users’ privacy and data. The researchers used the presence or absence of six basic hardening techniques: name obfuscation (just one
18 May 2020
In March the Dutch government announced that a contact tracing app would become the core of its testing policy. Of the 750 proposals it received in response to its open tender, 63 were long-listed; however, none of the seven finalists met the privacy and security criteria. Research simulating the
21 Jun 2020
New York City’s contact tracing system got off to a shaky start; in its first two weeks only 35% of the 5,347 residents who tested or were presumed positive for the coronavirus gave information about close contacts to tracers, rising slightly to 42% in the third week. Encouragingly, however, almost
25 Jun 2020
Germany’s contact tracing system is thought to have been critical in controlling the COVID-19 outbreak, especially given superspreader events such as infections in meat packing plants. Each of Germany’s 16 federal states is responsible for health, and together with the national Robert Koch Institute
18 Jun 2020
In the second week of operation of the UK’s contact tracing system a quarter of people who tested positive for COVID-19 could not be reached because they had not supplied phone numbers or email addresses. Of the close contacts whose details were provided, contact tracers reached 90.6% to advise them
28 May 2020
Lithuania’s data protection authority has suspended the country’s COVID-19 contact tracing app for failing to comply with GDPR’s principle of accountability at the Lithuanian health ministry, which is the relevant data controller. It investigated the app in response to media coverage and public
30 Jul 2020
As part of efforts to make returning to campus safer, US universities are considering or implementing mandates requiring students to install exposure notification apps, quarantine enforcement programs, and other unproven new technologies, risking exacerbating existing inequalities in access to both
10 Aug 2020
Manchester-based VST Enterprises is developing a rapid COVID-19 testing kit intended to help restart stadium sporting events. The results of tests, which fans will take the day before the event they wish to attend and provide results within ten minutes, will be stored in VSTE’s V-Health Passport, a
22 Jul 2020
By mid-July, the UK’s contact tracing system was still failing to contact thousands of people in areas with England’s highest infection rates. In London, with the sixth-highest infection rate in England, only 47% of at-risk people were contacted; in partially locked-down Leicester, the rate was 65%
The non-profit Resolve to Save Lives, led by Tom Frieden, director of the CDC in the Obama administration, finds that six months after the first coronavirus cases in the US most states are failing to report crucial information needed to track and control the spread of COVID-19. Among the issues
A study describes the data transmitted to backend servers by the Google/Apple based contact tracing (GAEN) apps in use in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark and finds that the health authority client apps are generally well-behaved from a privacy point of view, although the Irish
When Google and Apple announced their joint platform for contact tracing, the companies said the system would not track users’ locations. By mid-July, the resulting apps had been downloaded more than 20 million times in companies such as Germany and Switzerland. However, in order for Bluetooth
29 Jul 2020
Individuals accept giving more information in emergencies, and the tradeoffs between providing emergency help and privacy must be carefully considered. A study of popular disaster apps finds that many apps ignore privacy policies and government agency policies. Twelve of the 14 apps studied capture
02 Aug 2020
The French data protection authority, CNIL, has examined the French contact tracing app and ruled that it is not fully compliant with the provisions of GDPR and the French data protection law. CNIL’s primary complaint was that the app transferred the news that a user had been infected to all their
06 Aug 2020
Following trials in Leicester, Luton, and Blackburn with Darwen, the UK government will assign teams of health care professionals to more than ten local authorities and offer them Public Health England’s near real-time data on infections and a dedicated team of contact tracers, shifting away from
06 May 2020
The Australian government reported soon after releasing its CovidSafe contact tracing app that the app doesn’t work properly on iPhones because it doesn’t use Apple’s Exposure Notification framework and the Bluetooth functions deteriorate if the app isn’t kept running in the foreground. The
07 May 2020
Colombia will adopt the Apple-Google contact tracing platform after finding it necessary to remove the contact tracing functions from CoronApp, the official Colombian coronavirus information app because they didn’t work. CoronApp was downloaded by 4.3 million people, and includes features to report
20 May 2020
The outsourcing company Serco, which the UK government has contracted to perform contact tracing, accidentally shared the email addresses of almost 300 of the contact tracers it hired when a staff member sent an introductory email and used CC rather than blind CC. Serco does not intend to refer
11 Jul 2020
Soon after the UK began reopening pubs with the requirement that staff retain customer details in case they are needed later for contact tracing, a woman reported on Twitter that the next day the bartender messaged her on Facebook. The story was picked up by Refinery29 and the Independent, but taken
20 May 2020
More than 6 million Australians downloaded the government’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app after being told it was necessary to help health officials track future coronavirus outbreaks. In late May, a software developer found a flaw in the app that would allow someone with a relatively simple
08 Jul 2020
Governments in Norway, Britain, Qatar, and India, among others, have had to either drop or remediate the contact tracing apps they’ve released to help combat the coronavirus due to the rush in which they were released. Many had security flaws that risked exposing user data; others pose privacy and
20 Jul 2020
More than 725,000 people downloaded Ireland’s COVID-19 tracker and contact tracing app, Covid Green, within 24 hours of its launch, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly stressed that the app, which was developed by the Waterford company Nearform, was not
30 Jun 2020
After ORG asked questions via its legal representative, AWO’s Ravi Naik, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care agreed to change the period it would retain Test and Trace data from 20 years to eight. Public Health England manager Yvonne Doyle explained that the novelty of COVID-19 was the
20 Jul 2020
In early July the Open Rights Group issued a pre-action legal letter to UK health secretary Matt Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care saying they have breached requirements under the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR by failing to conduct an impact assessment for the Test and Trace
08 Jul 2020
Israel’s initial success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus in April was followed in June by a surge in cases that government advisers blamed on insufficient resources for ministries to implement an effective trace-and-trace programme and increase testing to the level that would show clearly
05 Jun 2020
UK police reported to be planning separate contact tracing system Police forces in the UK are planning their own contact tracing system because they are concerned that giving details to the national contact tracing system would compromise undercover operations and working methods. Options under
04 Jun 2020
The app-based track-and-trace system that was supposed to be in place in the UK by June 1 will not be working at full speed until September or October, and the chief executive of Serco, one of the main companies contracted to deliver it, doubted the system would evolve smoothly. Scientists have said
11 Jun 2020
A detailed analysis of Pakistan’s app, which was developed by the Ministry of IT and Telecom and the National Information Technology Board and which offers dashboards for each province and state, self-assessment tools, and popup hygiene reminders, finds a number of security issues. Among them: the
15 Jun 2020
After the data protection authority ruled that Norway’s Smittestopp app disproportionately intruded on users’ privacy by collecting location data without demonstrating it was strictly necessary and by failing to allow users to separately grant permission for contact tracing and for using the data
13 Jun 2020
The UK government spent two months touting its contact tracing app as the prospective basis for returning to something close to normality. As the June 1 target date approached, however, the government increasingly downplayed its importance. In the meantime, Apple and Google’s API were adopted by
20 May 2020
After the CEO of NHSx told the the UK parliament that data harvested by the NHSx contact tracing app would be retained for future research, the UK Ministry of Defence said it would turn the data over to its Jhub to sanitise the data and remove all personally identifying information before passing it
26 Jun 2020
Germany’s “Corona-Warn” contact tracing app amassed 6.5 million users (7.8% of the German population) in the first 24 hours after its June 16 launch despite setbacks that included disputes over data privacy and functionality. The app was developed in six weeks by a team of developers and engineers
01 Jun 2020
Concerns that contact tracing could expand to purposes beyond public health gained some weight when the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington told press that law enforcement was using “contact tracing” to investigate protesters arrested after the murder of George Floyd
05 Jun 2020
After problems with its TraceTogether contact tracing app, Singapore is planning a comprehensive contact tracing system in which it will distribute to all its 5.7 million residents a wearable device that will identify people who have interacted with people carrying the coronavirus. The devices can
03 Jun 2020
The lack of data protection laws and the absence of a privacy commission are contributing factors to Pakistan’s failure to investigate or remedy security flaws in the country’s recently-launched COVID-19 tracking technology, which partially depends on a system originally developed to combat
01 Jun 2020
Italy has launched Immuni, one of the first contact tracing apps based on the Apple-Google API. The app is opt-in, and includes an explanation of the privacy and security measures in its setup. The app collects anonymously bluetooth tokens that are automatically randomised, but does not collect GPS
13 May 2020
The Slovak Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional parts of the newly amended telecommunication law that permitted state authorities to access telcommunications data for the purposes of contact tracing. The parliament approved the legislation in March, but the court ruled that the need for
12 May 2020
Any user of India's Aaorgya Setu contact tracing app can now request deletion of the data they've entered according to the Aaorgya Seta Emergency Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocol, 2020, which specifies the definition, collection, processing, and storage of the data the app collects. The
13 May 2020
In designing its Healthy Together contact tracing app, the US state of Utah opted for a GPS and Bluetooth-based design created by social media startup Twenty; it does not use the Google-Apple API. The goal is for the app to assist the 1,200 Utah Department of Health workers who are doing phone call
20 May 2020
In its final report, the expert group appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services to assess the security and privacy of the country's COVID-19 contact tracing app, "Smittestopp", concluded that the app handles neither responsibly. The group recommended removing all data once it's
19 May 2020

Security researchers have found seven problems with the NHSx contact tracing app including: weaknesses in registration that could allow attackers to steal encryption keys; storing unencrypted data on handsets; generating a new random ID code only once a day; and design decisions with respect to Bluetooth connections that could enable tracking. These questions are independent of whether the app is centralised or decentralised.

Writer: BBC; Chris Culnane and Vanessa Teague
Publication: BBC; State of IT
 

21 May 2020

In an analysis, the smartphone privacy company Jumbo Privacy finds that Care19, North Dakota's official COVID-19 contact tracing app, sends latitude and longitude data and a unique user advertising identifier to Foursquare and other data to Google servers and the bug-tracking Bugfender. The app's privacy policy does not disclose this third-party sharing. The app development company, ProudCrowd, said it would update the privacy policy and that the data-sharing agreement does not allow Foursquare to collect or use the Care19 data beyond returning the names of nearby businesses. North Dakota officials say future versions of the app will incorporate Apple-Google's new Exposure Notification API.



Writer: Steven Melendez
Publication: Fast Company

 

29 May 2020
The UK's NHSx contact tracing initiative requires anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to provide the full name, postcode/house number, phone number, and email of anyone they've been in contact with, and Public Health England will keep the data for 20 years. The privacy notice was quickly updated
26 May 2020
China is adding new features to its coronavirus surveillance app, which has helped many workers and employers return to their former lives, and looks likely to become a permanent fixture. Zhou Jiangyong, the Communist Party secretary of the eastern city of Hangzhou, has said the city's app, which it
28 May 2020
The Chinese city of Hangzhou is considering making the app it requires residents to download and install for the COVID-19 crisis and that controls whether and where residents may travel a permanent fixture to create a "firewall to enhance people's health and immunity". Other countries may follow
21 May 2020
Technical flaws in Moscow's app, intended to track people with COVID-19 and symptoms of other respiratory diseases, led the authorities to wrongly fine hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people, alleging they had breached self-quarantine. The app was originally launched at the end of March, but
27 May 2020
The lower house of the French parliament paved the way for the launch of the government's independently-developed contact tracing app. The minister in charge, technology minister Cedric O, praised the app, developed by companies such as Orange and Dassault Systemes, as a French project "with the
25 May 2020
As part of a survey of the human rights compliance of contact tracing apps Amnesty International's Security Lab discovered that security vulnerabilities in Qatar's mandatory contact tracing app, EHTERAZ, would have allowed attackers to access the personal information, including name, national ID
23 May 2020
Contact tracing apps will only work effectively if people trust them and install them in sufficient numbers. Soon after its launch, however, the North Dakota contact tracing app people were already dropping it after posting complaints in the Google App store. In a survey of 798 Americans
05 May 2020
On the day South Korea relaxed its social distancing measures, a 29-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19. The previous weekend, he had visited five nightclubs in the gay district of Itweon in Seoul, mingling with around 7,200 other people. After nearly 80 new COVID-19 cases have been linked to
26 May 2020
South Korea's second spike in coronavirus cases was curbed via a contact tracing regime that uses credit card records, mobile phone tracking, and GPS location data in order to track the previous movements of infected individuals working alongside efficient diagnostic testing. Successfully tracing an
23 May 2020
The best contact tracers in US history were a group of mid-20th century venereal disease investigators working for a programme at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whose strategy eventually led to the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. Talking to infected people and tracking down
25 May 2020
Local health authorities in Germany have relied on human contact tracers since the country confirmed its first COVID-19 cases early in 2020, and say that doing so has helped the country keep its death rate comparatively low even with a less restrictive lockdown than many other countries. Germany
25 May 2020
Latvia became one of the first countries to use Apple's and Google's new joint toolkit to launch a smartphone contact tracing app, Apturi Covid. For now, the app will only work for Latvia's 2 million citizens, but the intention is that it should interoperate with the apps other countries to aid
27 May 2020
An Ipsos MORI survey conducted on May 20-22 found generally high levels of compliance with lockdown restrictions, though many were suffering. While roughly three-quarters were confident they could download and operate a contact tracing app and would be willing to comply with its recommendations
03 May 2020
Only 16% of Australians had downloaded the country's COVIDSafe app by May 3, a week after its launch on April 26, even though most said they support the federal government's coronavirus contact tracing app. In an Ipsos poll, 80% of those who said they were unlikely to download the app cited privacy
06 May 2020
Shortly after launch, security researcher Baptiste Robert discovered that India's contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu ("Health Bridge"), allows users to spoof their GPS location, find out how many people reported themselves as infected within any 500-metre radius, and mount a triangulation attack to
07 May 2020
In a technical analysis of the UK NHSx contact tracing app for iOS, security engineers find that Apple's Bluetooth design makes it harder to detect iPhones running the app in background mode, and the app is using "keepalive" notifications in order to keep the app able to make the necessary
14 Apr 2020
Our partners from Hiperderecho in Peru proposed 15 measures to improve the COVID-19 app that the Peruvian Government is rolling out in the country (in Spanish). Link: https://hiperderecho.org/2020/04/quince-propuestas-para-mejorar-la-aplicacion-del-gobierno-del-covid-19/
21 Apr 2020
The French government asked Apple to change the way its phones handle Bluetooth in order to accommodate the design of its contact tracing app. Downloading and installing the app will be voluntary, but the app will use a centralised design in which the data will be fed into a government server for
29 Apr 2020
Numerous efforts to create apps to help monitor and map the spread of COVID-19 rely on satnav-based location data from Galileo. The CovTrack app developed on a pro-bono basis by the Romanian company RISE, for example, uses Bluetooth connections between mobile phones to store identification data the
30 Apr 2020
Researchers at the University of Cape Town are developing the smartphone app COVI-ID to help the South African government track people who may not know they have contracted COVID-19, as well as people who have come into contact with those who have tested positive. The app will use Bluetooth and
26 Apr 2020
A reverse-engineering analysis of Vietnam's official Bluetooth-based contact tracing app, Bluezone, which was developed by a coalition of local technology companies and the Ministry of Information and Communications, shows that the app is broadcasting a fixed six-character ID the app assigned to
30 Apr 2020
The Indian authorities have said that the country's contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu ("health bridge", in Sanskrit), will be voluntary - but mandatory for federal government employees, food delivery workers, and some other service providers. It may also be needed to access public transport and
30 Apr 2020
Two million people downloaded Australia's COVIDSafe app in the first four days it was available; the government's goal is to reach 10 million, or about 40% of the population. Users are asked for a (not necessarily real) name, age, mobile number, and postal code. The app exchanges a Bluetooth
22 Apr 2020
Police will be barred from accessing metadata collected by Australia's proposed coronavirus contact tracing app, which will be able to identify when users have been 1.5 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes, Australia's government services minister, Stuart Robert, and prime minister, Scott
21 Apr 2020
By May 11, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, working with EFPL and ETH Zurich, will launch a secure, decentralised system for contact tracing developed by the Decentralised Privacy-Preserving-Proximity Tracing (DP-3T) international consortium, whose Swiss partners are Ubique and
20 Apr 2020
A data breach that posted 100 to 200 names, email addresses, and encrypted passwords online was found in the Belgian Covid-19 Alert! app, one of seven candidates for adoption by the Dutch government. The app identifies phones that have been close to each other via Bluetooth signals and can send them
26 Apr 2020
Three days after announcing Germany would adopt the centralised Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) standard for contact tracing, the country's chancellery minister Helge Braun and health minister Jens Spahn announced they would instead use the decentralised approach backed
15 Apr 2020
India's COVID-19 tracker app, Aarogya Setu, was downloaded 50 million times in the first 13 days it was available. Developed by the National Informatics Centre a subsidiary of the Ministry of Electronics and IT, the app is available on both Android and iOS smartphones, and uses GPS and Bluetooth to
15 Apr 2020
The Australian government's planned contact tracing app will reportedly be based on Singapore's TraceTogether, which relies on Bluetooth connections to detect other phones in range and log the results, so that if a phone user tests positive for COVID-19 and consents their close contacts can be
09 Apr 2020
The Norwegian contact tracing app, Infection Stop, relies on a centralised database to store users' GPS locations for 30 days, like its Chinese counterpart. Sumula, the company that developed the app, claims is necessary because of technical limitations in Apple's smartphone operating system iOS
10 Apr 2020
Apple and Google have announced a partnership to enable governments and health agencies to use Bluetooth for proximity-based contact tracing to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus while preserving user privacy and security. The effort is due to begin with the May release of APIs that
01 Apr 2020
Led by Germany's Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute for Telecoms, technologists and scientists from at least eight countries, are working on a proximity-based contact tracing technology that complies with GDPR. The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing project (PEPP-PT) is intended to
01 Apr 2020
On April 1, Iceland launched an app that uses GPS to locate people who may have been in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients. A message containing a download link for the app will be sent to all Icelanders; downloading it and then agreeing to disclose GPS data are both voluntary, but for
24 Mar 2020
Researchers at Germany's Robert Koch Institute and Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute are working on an app that uses Bluetooth connections between smartphones and is compliant with GDPR to anonymously save the distance and duration of contact between people on the smartphone to make it possible to
26 Mar 2020
Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics/KOMINFO official website) On Thursday, 26 March 2020, the Indonesian Minister of Communication and Informatics, Johnny G. Plate, issued the Ministerial Decree No. 159/2000 to facilitate the cooperation between the Government and telecommunication
24 Mar 2020
The success of South Korea's efforts to combat the coronavirus without a national lockdown and without suspending civil rights depended in part on preparation put in place after the 2015 MERS epidemic and in part on the country's network of private testing labs, which enabled the country to quickly