The Tegonal team members are often approached with the question, what we think about the SwissCovid App. After all, we are the "IT guys", right?! Often people express doubts about data protection. Given that the steaks are high, we decided to share our opinion on the topic:
Many actors are collection as much data as they can get their hands on and many users happily grant generously access. The goal of the state must be to protect data privacy of its citizens. This is even more true for delicate fields as public health is one.
The goal was actually met creating the covid apps: Within only a few months an extensive discourse about data protection emerged throughout society. To date, this has not happened often and it is a model for future debates. In spring, there were multiple concepts on how a corona app could be designed. The pressure quickly increased so plans to introduce systems with a central data store were quickly dropped by most countries.
The solution used in Switzerland and in many other countries is now based on the principle, that every smartphone emits randomly generated codes using Bluetooth. Those codes are only saved on the actual device and twice a day, all codes published by infected persons are downloaded and matched to see if a contact happened. This approach accommodates the requirements on data protection adequately.
Yes, the app has some room for improvement (but what software doesn't?). The forced activation of location services on Android is a problem. As a workaround the location access can be withdrawn to all other apps. Also the administrative workflows to submit the codes once a person is tested positive must be improved. This alone is no reason to not use the app. As the Swiss say: «Nützt's nüd, so schad's nüd.»
So should you install the app on your smartphone? We think: Yes, definitely! This is an easy and safe contribution to the efforts to contain the virus.
You can find some more information on those websites:
- swisscovid-app-facts.ch answers a bunch of questions you might have. - This service is provided by multiple Swiss NGOs such as Amnesty International and Digital Society
- Official website of the federal office of public health on the app
- Source Code of the app on Github The code was used multiple times to create country specific apps. This is possible because it's Open Source software!