A group of European researchers has revealed smartphone technology to help track people in contact with those infected with COVID-19. The idea is to keep a record on the smartphones of all those you come across. Thus, if an individual positively accuses a coronavirus test, your smartphone will list all other equipment with whom you had close contact, in order to help authorities find people at risk of contagion and perform the screening more quickly, Reuters.
The initiative is called Pan-European Privacy Preserving Tracing (PEPP-PT) and states that some countries in Asia have been successful in using smartphones to track the virus, reinforcing the quarantine orders imposed by governments. However, these same methods violate the strict measures of Europe's data protection rules. The European initiative intends to take the concepts, but translate them to comply with the rules, using proximity meters well tested and implemented in its technology.
PEPP-PT, which is made up of 130 researchers from eight countries, claims to have the platform ready to be launched next April 7. This initiative has already received the support of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, herself in isolation after having had contact with a doctor who positively accused COVID-19. The idea is also supported by epidemiologists, who say that obtaining the trace of contact will be a vital weapon to contain future contagions, not only in COVID-19, but in other contagious diseases such as the flu caused by coronaviruses.
The proposed technology uses a Bluetooth connection, anonymously and to respect the GDPR, and does not require intrusive location tracking data. It only records the connections made between smartphones on the equipment itself, instead of a central server, for just two weeks, keeping the data encrypted. Only local health authorities can download data in order to notify people at risk of infection and place them in isolation.
For this measure to work, 60% of the population of a country would have to participate, according to a study by researchers at the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford, who analyzed the proposed system.