A woman carries a shopping bag after leaving a supermarket in Madrid, Spain. Picture: AP Photo/Paul White
A woman carries a shopping bag after leaving a supermarket in Madrid, Spain. Picture: AP Photo/Paul White

Seven coronavirus tracking apps fail Dutch tests

By Annette Birsche Time of article published Apr 21, 2020

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Amsterdam - A test of seven coronavirus tracking apps in the Netherlands has revealed major shortcomings and none of them are suitable for official use, the Health Ministry told TV station NOS on Tuesday.

Six of the seven apps had security flaws and one had data problems.

A panel made up of technical and data protection experts as well as lawyers and health professionals also said almost all of the apps tested had design flaws.

The Dutch government wants to use an app where the public can input data and allow authorities to track coronavirus infections and possibly relax lockdown measures.

The app, installed on mobile phones, would be used to warn citizens if they had been near a person infected with the virus. But the government has made clear its use would be voluntary.

A rift has opened up over the design of smartphone apps to trace people in Europe at risk of coronavirus infection, potentially hindering efforts to curb the pandemic and ease crippling travel restrictions.

Scientists and researchers from more than 25 countries published an open letter on Monday urging governments not to abuse such technology to spy on their people and warning of risks in an approach championed by Germany.

"We are concerned that some 'solutions' to the crisis may, via mission creep, result in systems which would allow unprecedented surveillance of society at large," said the letter that gathered more than 300 signatures.

Tech experts are rushing to develop digital methods to fight COVID-19, a flu-like disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected 2.4 million people worldwide and been linked to 165,000 deaths.

Automating the assessment of who is at risk and telling them to see a doctor, get tested or self-isolate, is seen by advocates as a way to speed up a task that typically entails phone calls and house calls.

dpa and Reuters

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