Pan-European initiative develops ‘privacy-preserving’ COVID-19 tracking app

Experts from at least eight different countries from the European continent have banded together to develop an app that mobile users and healthcare authorities could use in order to trace people who had come into contact with COVID-19.

This initiative is officially called the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), and it basically builds upon the same tech used by Asian countries, like Singapore for instance, in tracking the coronavirus pandemic.

With a focus on preserving users’ privacy

As its name suggests, PEPP-PT also aims to preserve the privacy of mobile users who will download the app on their smartphones

The idea is to develop an app that would comply with European data protection regulations, which are rather stringent when it comes to protecting users’ privacy.

Of course, the central goal remains the same – to use contract tracing tech in order to quell potential spikes in coronavirus cases. That is, once quarantine protocols set by different governments start to halt the growth of infections.

Uniting Europe’s brightest

The PEPP-PT initiative will unite about 130 scientists and tech experts from eight countries to help fight against the pandemic. These members consist of some of the best minds that the European continent can offer from a wide range of scientific fields.

According to the website, PEPP-PT possesses expertise in the following fields:

  • communication
  • psychology
  • epidemiology
  • proximity tracing
  • security
  • privacy
  • encryption
  • data protection
  • application development
  • scalable systems
  • supercomputing infrastructure
  • artificial intelligence

As reported by Reuters, the group is looking to launch its platform by April 7, a date also confirmed by Hans-Christian Boos, the founder of German tech firm Arago. Boos is also a member of the digital advisory council of Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor.

How the platform will work

PEPP-PT’s experts are looking to take full advantage of low-energy Bluetooth tech, but in such a way that it does not violate any rules of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Furthermore, the tech they are developing will not need to monitor users’ location information in an intrusive manner.

Bluetooth connections made between phones will be stored in a device, as opposed to a central server, for a period of a couple of weeks only, and of course, protected by rigid encryption protocols.

As for that stored data, they can only be accessed by local authorities, and only for the sole purpose of informing users who are deemed at risk, and instructing them to self-quarantine or seek treatment.

Images courtesy of Pexels

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