Germany changes stance on Apple-Google contact tracing project

Germany has changed its position on Apple and Google’s work to create a contact tracking system to track and manage COVID-19 sp, supporting a decentralized approach to privacy instead of using a centralized system.


A graph explaining how Apple and the Google system would work

Friday, Germany and France disagreed with Apple and Google on the technical aspects of security and data storage in the multiplatform framework of the two technology giants for contact tracking. Two days later, officials in one of the two countries appear to have changed their minds to support similar efforts.

Germany previously sought to create a centralized contact tracing system that relies on a central server, an approach that would allow health officials to be able to directly observe and potentially contact suspected carriers of COVID-19. A central system approach is seen as both a security and privacy risk by critics due to the transmission of potentially sensitive medical data to a single source and paving the way for future state surveillance.

Rather, the Apple and Google system relies on a decentralized system, where contacts are stored only on users’ devices until they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, with data leaving the device only when this confirmation. Countries disagreed with the functioning of the API and instead moved towards the creation of a centralized surveillance system.

Reuters reports on Sunday that Germany revised its plans for a “decentralized” approach. The country supported the pan-European privacy monitoring initiative (PEPP-PT), which was based on a centralized system, but Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn said PEPP-PT to a more private method.

“We will support a decentralized architecture that will only store contacts on the devices. It’s good for trust,” said Braun in an interview.

At this early stage, it’s unclear what Germany plans for its own system, such as whether it will take advantage of the Apple and Google APIs, or whether it would work with decentralized proximity tracking preserving privacy. (DP-3T). sustained effort by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia.

So far, he has withdrawn the Fraunhofer HHI research institute from the project, officials who informed the group on Saturday of his withdrawal. “The project will be delivered and others can use the results we have achieved so far to build a decentralized solution,” said Thomas Wiegand, head of Fraunhofer HHI, in a note to employees.

On the news, DP-3T said it was “very pleased to see that Germany is taking a decentralized approach to tracking contacts and we look forward to its next steps implementing such a technique in a respectful manner. private life.”

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