Tech

Why you should download the CoronaMelder (or why not)

The Senate on Tuesday agreed to the introduction of the app, which tells users when they have been close to an infected person for at least 15 minutes. The latter must indicate this in the app together with the GGD. Use is voluntary – people should not be required to use the app.

The CoronaMelder has recently been tested in five regions in the Netherlands. There, people who test positive for corona could warn other people via the app. Everyone can use it from Saturday. Since the start of the test, the app has been downloaded 1.3 million times.

Although no personal data is stored, the app does not yet meet the privacy requirements. This is what privacy organizations Bits of Freedom and Civil Rights Platform and human rights organization Amnesty International say.

Last April, more than forty experts formulated ten principles that such an app should meet. Although the CoronaMelder is technically well designed according to the privacy organizations and a lot of attention is paid to ease of use and privacy, according to them it still falls short in some areas.

Depending on tech giants

The privacy organizations, for example, denounce that the ministry has made itself ‘dependent on two dominant tech giants’ when building the app, Google and Apple.

“They determine how the technology works and thus have a major influence on the effectiveness of the app. They also determine when the underlying code of the CoronaMelder is removed again,” said Tijmen Wisman of Platform Civil Rights.

Do not test immediately

A precondition for the app should also be that a user can have himself tested immediately after a report, says epidemiologist Carl Moons of the UMC Utrecht. He chairs a committee that advises the Ministry of Health on ‘smart digital solutions against Covid-19’, including the corona app.

Due to the current shortage in test capacity, testing is now only allowed with health complaints, even if you have received a warning from the app. Now people are urged to go into self-quarantine with a warning. The question is whether people without complaints will actually go into quarantine for ten days if they receive this notification from the app.

Moons: “When an infected person is on the train, a lot of other people receive a report. We have to see if all those people go into quarantine for ten days. We are therefore preparing an evaluation protocol to see what people did when they got a report. “

Such a report can also be difficult for people without complaints who cannot work from home or have no income if they do not show up for work. In addition, the GGDs are also critical, because the app puts further pressure on test capacity.

As soon as the test capacity is in order or rapid tests are on the market, the committee recommends that warnings from the app be followed up immediately with the option of testing.

Added value

Still, according to Moons, the app certainly has added value. “The app can inform close contacts faster than with the current source and contact research, which depends entirely on human work. The app can also inform people about an infected person they cannot remember or do not even know, such as in the train.”

However, the committee would state the imperative advice to go into quarantine for ten days otherwise in the app. “We would rather accompany the warning with the message not to take risks and to stay away from others as much as possible. So always keep a distance of 1.5 meters and request a test immediately in case of complaints.”

A similar app is already being used in a number of other countries. “We must do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus,” said ‘corona minister’ Hugo de Jonge. “The app can play an important role in this, so it is high time to start using it in the Netherlands now.”

Cooperation other countries

A disadvantage is that the app does not yet work with corona apps from other countries. For example, if you go to Germany, the Dutch version is not enough and you have to download the German version. The app also does not work if you live in a border area and have been in contact with an infected German.

Incidentally, a European collaboration is being worked on, which is expected to be completed by the end of November. Different countries will exchange codes, so one app in several countries should be sufficient.

Nevertheless, the cooperation does not apply to all European countries. France, for example, has a less privacy-friendly app, so collaboration is not possible.

Margin of error

Finally, the app has a considerable margin of error. You may have been around someone for more than 15 minutes, but not every contact is actually dangerous.

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