The German government is rethinking its approach to conducting contact tracking tests for COVID-19 patients.
Chancellor Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn told the local newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the government will adopt a decentralized approach, which has been recommended by experts throughout the country. [Reuters]
Problems with COVID-19 Data Collection
Germany recently supported the Pan-European Proximity Privacy Tracking (PEPP-PT) project, an initiative that seeks to create a pandemic contact tracing application with a centralized process. Some experts in this country have blamed attempts at lack of transparency along with data protection issues.
However, the government seems to have taken a step back and is now moving towards the use of decentralized architecture, which should help build public trust, unlike a centralized process.
The growth of contact tracing as a testing mechanism has been sporadic in recent weeks, as countries struggle to improve testing. In essence, many of these countries have used tracing apps.
Tracking digital contacts is an untested and controversial effort. This process works by assessing the closeness and duration of contact between people. After someone is tested positive, the application will notify everyone they have just contacted to isolate themselves immediately and call a doctor.
As explained by Reuters, most European countries have chosen to use a short-range digital handshake between smartphones. However, they also differ on whether to log these contacts on a digital server or leave them on an individual device.
Google and Apple Collect Central Data Collection
Apple and Google are also trying to help COVID-19 app search initiatives at the global level. The two companies have sought to unify the tracking process by developing a joint API, which is the basis of government and public health authorities.
Although landmark collaboration allows Android and iOS phones to communicate, it limits the amount of data that can be accessed by health officials. This has been discouraging for countries that are building contact tracking applications with a centralized data collection process.
While Germany has turned its back on supporting a decentralized search method, several other European countries are still in a deadlock with the two tech giants. France, for example, has asked the technology giant to do it weakens his privacy protection so that it can save more lives.
The United Kingdom is also developing a contact track application which can collect more data than is convenient for Google and Apple. Recently blog post, NHSX, a branch of the National Health Service (NHS) that develops applications, said that an upcoming version of the application would allow users to provide the government with more information about themselves.
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