Tracking the Global Response to COVID-19

Tech companies, governments, and international agencies have all announced measures to help contain the spread of the COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus.

Some of these measures impose severe restrictions on people’s freedoms, including to their privacy and other human rights. Unprecedented levels of surveillance, data exploitation, and misinformation are being tested across the world.

Many of those measures are based on extraordinary powers, only to be used temporarily in emergencies. Others use exemptions in data protection laws to share data.

Some may be effective and based on advice from epidemiologists, others will not be. But all of them must be temporary, necessary, and proportionate.

It is essential to keep track of them. When the pandemic is over, such extraordinary measures must be put to an end and held to account.

This page will be updated as measures are reported.

This is a collective project led by PI alongside its global Network. But we also need your help. If you know of an example we can add and track, please contact us with an open source link, at https://privacyinternational.org/contact.

 

13 May 2020
More than 3 million people in the UK have downloaded the JoinZoe COVID Symptom Tracker, which was designed by doctors and scientists at King's College London, Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals working in partnership with the health science company ZOE Global Ltd and endorsed by governments and NHS in
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
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
05 May 2020
A parliamentary panel granted Israel's Shin Bet security service an additional three weeks to use mobile phone data to track people infected with the coronavirus; prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a six-week extension while his government drafts legislation to regulate the data use in
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
02 May 2020
A security lapse exposed one of the core databases of the coronavirus self-test symptom checker app launched by India's largest cellphone network, Jio, shortly before the government lockdown began in late March. The database, which had no password protection and contained millions of logs and
02 May 2020
At least 27 countries are using data from cellphone companies to track the movements of their citizens, and at least 30 have developed smartphone apps for the public to download. Fewer objections have been raised in countries with greater levels of success in containing the virus. However, although
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
The central Thailand province of Chachoengsao has launched Mor Channa, a COVID-19 tracking mobile phone app, to help individuals assess whether they are in a high-risk area for COVID-19. Energy Absolute PLC, one of the companies that helped develop the app, believes that the app's tracking system
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
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
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
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
24 Apr 2020
The Pakistani government has repurposed a system designed by the country's spy agency, inter-Services Intelligence for tracking down terrorists to trace suspected COVID-19 cases. Prime minister Imran Khan has said that efficient tracking and testing of coronavirus-infected people is the only way to
22 Apr 2020
Our partners from Unwanted Witness in Uganda wrote a formal letter to the Ministry of Information Communications Technology and National Guidance demanding for strict observance of human rights for any intended use of surveillance technologies to fight COVID-19. In a letter addressed to the
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
While the agency that manages residence permits, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, is closed, Israel has instructed Palestinians seeking to verify whether their permits to remain in Israel are still valid to download the app Al Munasiq, which grants the military access to
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
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
21 Apr 2020
Our partners from Karisma in Colombia analysed three different technological solutions intending to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, finding vulnerabilities in them (in Spanish). Link: https://web.karisma.org.co/que-sabemos-de-las-tres-herramientas-que-se-anuncian-como-soluciones-tecnologicas-para
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
19 Apr 2020
Turkey's Health Ministry has launched a smartphone app that allows people to self-report symptoms, provides information on nearby hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, and public transport stops, detects if the user has come into contact with others who pose a risk, and provides up-to-date
17 Apr 2020
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health has released a new mobile app, "Stay Home", to ensure those asked to self-quarantine are abiding by the isolation rules. Everyone subject to quarantine is expected to download the app and create a user name and password; the user must also grant access to camera
16 Apr 2020
North Macedonia is the first country in the Western Balkans to launch a contact-tracing app. The government has stressed that the Bluetooth-based app, StopKorona!, complies with all legal privacy requirements. The app follows a decentralised design, so that users maintain full control over their
16 Apr 2020
Moscow's first attempts to introduce digital methods by which residents could obtain digital passes to move around the city failed as the website collapsed numerous times and the app required them to get a pass for every single move rather than only to drive a car, as the government has stated. City
16 Apr 2020
Our partners from Derechos Digitales analysed the Chilean Government App to respond to the Corona Virus, saying that it will likely be useless and infringing on existing privacy rights (in Spanish) Link: https://www.derechosdigitales.org/14387/coronapp-la-inutilidad-del-atajo-tecnologico-desplegado
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 alerted by uploading the logs to a centralised server. A second app, ConTrace, is in development for the Public Transport Information and Priority System; the prototype requires no personal information from users and does not disclose time or place when alerting an individual that they have been in contact with an infected person.

Source: https://which-50.com/contact-tracing-australias-incoming-technology-solution-for-tracking-covid-19/

Writer: Joseph Brookes
Publication: Which-50

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/
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
09 Apr 2020
The city of Moscow is planning to use smartphone geolocation functions to track foreign tourists' movements through the city to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 after Russia reopens its borders. Moscow accounts for two-thirds of all cases in the country. Moscow City Hall is considering a system that
09 Apr 2020
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology have launched the "corona.asan.gov.af" software to provide health advice in three English, Dari, and Pashto; using the questions embedded in the software users can evaluate themselves for the virus
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
09 Apr 2020
Thousands of Israelis have been ordered into quarantine without any right of appeal based on cellphone tracking that may be wrong because phone geolocation is insufficiently fine-grained to tell the difference between two people being in the same room and being separated by a door when dropping off
08 Apr 2020
The Kazakhstani ministry of health requires the 8,000 or so Kazakhstani citizens currently under quarantine to use the SmartAstana tracking app, which enables officials to ensure that they remain in isolation. By contrast, for the city of Almaty the ministry of the interior relies on video
08 Apr 2020
Germany's federal agency responsible for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, has teamed up with the health technology start-up Thryve to develop an app called Corona-Datenspende ("data donation") that works with a variety of smartwatches and fitness wristbands. The app is
08 Apr 2020
Oura Rings, which measure body temperature and blood pulse volume to determine heart and respiratory rate and track sleep, are the subject of a national study being jointly conducted by the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, WVU Medicine, and Oura Health in hopes it can be
08 Apr 2020
Anyone in Egypt who suspects they or others have COVID-19 is required to immediately report it to the authorities in order to stop the spread of the virus and enable treatment. On April 1 Ahmed Refaat, a member of the parliamentary Telecommunications Committee, submitted a proposal for creating an
06 Apr 2020
Our partners from Fundación Datos Protegidos in Chile also reacted to the Chilean Government App to handle the COVID-19 situation, and listed a series of critical regulatory points, demanding a multistakeholder instance to discuss them. Link: https://datosprotegidos.org/declaracion-de-fundacion
05 Apr 2020
Every person placed in quarantine in Bahrain will be required to wear an electronic bracelet to ensure compliance. Mohammad Ali, head of electronic government, said that people fitted with the bracelets will have to stay within 15 metres of their mobile phones, which will be linked to the bracelets
04 Apr 2020
Israel's controversial NSO Group, which makes spyware that governments have used to target journalists and human rights activists, says it's in talks with Western governments to use its software to track the spread of the coronavirus. A demonstration, governments themselves, rather than NSO Group
02 Apr 2020
The surveillance tool supplier Cy4Gate is pitching surveillance tools to track every citizen and their contacts to multiple governments around the world, including their own. In a demonstration of the system, Governments using the system, which Cy4Gate calls "Human Interaction Tracking System (HITS)
02 Apr 2020
New Zealand's lockdown protocol includes a system to allow the police to monitor the whereabouts of travellers returning home. On arrival at the border, incoming travellers are asked for a contact mobile number. Once Welfare has ensured they have suitable accommodation, they receive a text from NZ
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
31 Mar 2020
The State Disaster Management Authority of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in collaboration with other government agencies, is developing tools to track the travel history of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and those who are under quarantine at home. The COVID alerting
31 Mar 2020
The Israeli defense minister, Naftali Bennett, has published a plan under which civilian companies including the controversial company NSO Group would cooperate with the defence establishment to fight the novel coronavirus after a sharp rise in reported cases indicated that existing methods of
30 Mar 2020
The San Francisco-based big data company Grandata has created a heat map to show which areas of Argentina are best complying with the quarantine lockdown. Grandata used an "anonymised" dataset collected from apps that provide third parties with geolocation information. The heat map shows if an
30 Mar 2020
The Croatian government intends to enforce individual quarantine orders via a dedicated app, text message alerts, or location data provided by telecommunications companies. However, the government aims to comply with GDPR by targeting only those ordered into self-isolation and only tracking their
30 Mar 2020
Authorities in the Kazakhstan cities of Astana and Almaty will require those ordered to mandatory quarantine to install the Smart Astana app and enable geolocation settings, wifi, and Bluetooth to make it possible to monitor them and ensure they move no more than 30 meters from their designated
30 Mar 2020
Learning from countries like South Korea, government of the Indian state Karnataka has assigned its ten-member COVID-19 task force, which includes IAS officers with expertise in the fields of technology, medicine and healthcare, to develop a system to the approximately 40,000 people who visited
30 Mar 2020
The Argentinian company Urbetrack is developing a "Cuidate en casa" (Take Care of Yourself at Home) app that it will pitch to government agencies throughout the country. The goal is to contribute to remediating the health crisis by helping enforce quarantine. The plan is that users will download the
29 Mar 2020
The computer science department at IIT-Bombay has sent two proposals for mobile applications that can track quarantine violators to a variety of Indian public authorities including officials in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, the Maharashtra state government, and the Brihanmumbai
28 Mar 2020
The World Health Organization will partner with major blockchain and technology companies to launch a distributed ledger-based platform to be dubbed "MiPasa" that it says will facilitate "fully private information sharing between individuals, state authorities, and health institutions" by cross
27 Mar 2020
Together with Norwegian company Simula the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is developping a voluntary app to track users geolocation and slow the spread of Covid-19. Running in the background, the app will collect GPS and Bluetooth location data and store them on a server for 30 days. If a user
27 Mar 2020
As employees shift to working from home, their employers are buying and installing software to monitor them in their new location. Companies such as InterGuard, Time Doctor, Teramind, VeriClock, innerActiv, ActivTrak, and Hubstaff provide a combination of screen monitoring and productivity metrics
27 Mar 2020
The company that makes the Natural Cycles women’s fertility app has added n optional service to allow users to track Covid-19 symptoms as well as positive and negative tests. As part of its fertility service, the app already takes each user’s basal body temperature daily; enabling the additional
26 Mar 2020
In a widely circulated animated heat map, the geospatial visualisation company Tectonix GEO in partnership with the location technology company X-Mode used the secondary locations of anonymised mobile devices that were active on a single beach in in Ft Lauderdale, FL during spring break to show how
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
25 Mar 2020
A web form to screen COVID-19 cases developed by the Mexico City government collects a wide range of personal information such as name, age, telephone number, home address, social network username, and cellphone number. The privacy notice establishes that such data may be transferred to a vast array
24 Mar 2020
When the phone belonging to an American University student in Taiwan, who was subject to 14 days' quarantine after returning from Europe, ran out of battery power, in less than hour he had received phone calls from four different local administrative units, a text message notifying him he would be
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
24 Mar 2020
The Israeli Ministry of Health's mobile app, "The Shield", is intended to alert users if they have been at a location in Israel at the same time as a known COVID-19 patient. The app, which is available for both Android and iOS, works by collecting the GPS and WiFi network (SSID) information of a
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
24 Mar 2020
The Guatemalan government is using the app Alerta Guate to spread public health information, which was created by the Chicago-registered company In-telligent LLC. The app is allowed to collect each user's email address, social media account handles, age, personal interests, and geographic location
23 Mar 2020
Argentina's Public Prosecutor's Office will start installing an app on the smartphones of those who violate government-ordered quarantine in the cities of Santa Fé and Rosario. The app will be installed by the province's Criminal Investigation Agency to track those who are under criminal
23 Mar 2020
The Indian medical AI start-up Qure.ai has released qScout, an AI-powered "virtual care platform". Intended to help governments, hospitals, and clinics, the qScout app is meant to identify high-risk individuals, assist with contact tracing, facilitate remote triage, read chest X-rays to identify
23 Mar 2020
On March 23, Argentina's immigration agency, Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (DNM), announced that anyone arriving in the country would be required to install the free COVID-19 Ministry of Health app on their phone for 14 days to ensure they comply with quarantine rules in order to protect the
22 Mar 2020
After Asian countries used mass surveillance of smartphones to trace contacts and halt the spread of the coronavirus, Western countries such as the UK and Germany are trying to find less-invasive ways to use phones to collect and share data about infections that would work within data privacy laws
21 Mar 2020
The self-testing web app issued by Argentina's Secretariat of Public Innovation asks for national ID number, email and phone as mandatory fields in order to submit the test. The Android version requires numerous permissions: calendar, contacts, geolocation data (both network-based and GPS)
19 Mar 2020
Facebook's scientists are analysing location data about compliance with social distancing recommendations in various countries using information from a private vault of location information its apps have collected. The analysis shows that only "very modest" changes in habits in the US, France, and
19 Mar 2020
Researchers at the University of Oxford are working with the UK government on an app similar to the smartphone tracking system China developed to alert people who have come in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. The British app, which would be associated with the country's National
18 Mar 2020
Technology entrepreneurs within Belgium would like to introduce a health code app similar to China's Alipay Health Code that would control individuals' movements based on their health status. The government has engaged privacy experts from the Belgian data protection authority and Ghent University
17 Mar 2020
Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) provided a SIM card to every foreigner and Thai who had travelled from countries that have have been designated as "high risk" for COVID-19 infections (at the time, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, and Macau). According to
17 Mar 2020
At the MIT Media lab, Ramesh Raskar is leading a team that includes software engineers at companies such as Facebook and Uber to develop the free and open source app Private Kit: Safe Paths. The app is intended to share encrypted information between phones in the network without going through a
14 Mar 2020
On March 14, the Peruvian government set up a website for individuals to check their symptoms so they can be directed towards sources of help. The web form asks for ID number, phone, email and home address. Source: https://www.gob.pe/coronavirus Writer: Peruvian government Publication: Peruvian
11 Mar 2020
A Hamburg geotracking startup called Ubilabs is working with the Hannover School of Medicine on a data analysis platform that could track people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and their contacts, Der Tagesspiegel reported on Tuesday; this type of tracking would require individuals'
10 Mar 2020
After the Iranian government produced the AC19 Android app, intended to help people self-diagnose rather than going to a hospital, Google pulled it from the Play Store apparently suspecting that the app made the misleading claim that it could detect COVID-19 infections although it is also true that
09 Mar 2020
Colombia's has launched the free, Android-only, prevention-focused Colombia-Coronapp developed by the National Health Institute (INS) to help identify and eradicate the virus across the country, as well provide centralisation and transparency. Besides their basic information, users are asked to say
06 Mar 2020
With 6,300 COVID-19 cases and more than 40 reported deaths, the South Korean government launched a smarphone app (Android first, iPhone due on March 20) to monitor citizens on lockdown as part of its "maximum" action to contain the outbreak. The app keeps patients in touch with care workers and uses
06 Mar 2020
Although the alerts about contacts with people infected by the coronavirus sent out via SMS by the South Korean government do not include names, the information included about people who tested positive for coronavirus, and their past locations can be revealingly detailed in some cases. Those who
01 Mar 2020
Software on smartphones dictates whether an individual should be quarantined. Chinese citizens in 200 cities, beginning with Hangzhou, are required to install the Alipay Health Code app, developed by Hangzhou's local government with the help of Alipay owner Ant Financial, on their smartphones. After
01 Mar 2020
A group of independent developers in Argentina started CoTrack, a public crowdsourced effort to develop an app to track and slow the spread of the virus. CoTrack registers each user's geographic movements and looks for times when they are close to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. When
01 Mar 2020
Software on smartphones dictates whether an individual should be quarantined. Chinese citizens in 200 cities, beginning with Hangzhou, are required to install the Alipay Health Code app, developed by Hangzhou's local government with the help of Alipay owner Ant Financial, on their smartphones. After