Contact Tracing App Released in Switzerland Using Apple and Google API

By:  |  Category: Blog Friday, June 5th, 2020  |  No Comments

The world’s first anything tends to be pretty darn cool, I mean, its new! It also tends to have a few kinks that need ironing, and sometimes an audience with divided feelings. All of these things are true about the SwissCovid contact-tracing app that was just released in Switzerland.

But there had to be a first, right? It’s still the midst of an international pandemic after all.

This app was built “on the backbone of the API [application programming interface] jointly developed by Google and Apple (and) has launched as a large-scale pilot in Switzerland.” Used by only a few thousand people, the goal is to begin in “pilot populations” which include hospital workers and the Swiss army.

Once downloaded, SwissCovid is designed “to quickly track and warn users who have been in prolonged contact with somebody who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.” With thorough testing, the app will likely be approved for a public release near the end of this month.

The model used by two Swiss Universities to develop the application was “jointly put forward by Apple and Google last month,” after it was pitched as the best way to contact-trace while incorporating privacy, an issue for many who oppose contact-tracing technology.

To keep privacy in the forefront, the approach Apple and Google used is decentralized, meaning every operation that might involve privacy is done on the users’ phone rather than a central database where information would be stored. This mitigates the “risk of being hacked or de-anonymized.”

The Swiss Universities have been working side-by-side with this approach to create their own app, DP3T: Decentralized Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (has a nice ring to it). They’re also in talks with Apple and Google to enable compatibility, so DP3T “can switch to Apple and Google’s protocol as soon as it becomes widely available, and integrate easily with iOS and Android devices.”

So, how does it work?

DP3T operates “via Bluetooth, continuously broadcasting random and impossible-to-guess strings of characters between smartphones. All signals are stored locally, on the devices, for a maximum of 14 days. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can then share the keys stored on their phone that were picked up on the days that they were contagious.”

A notification is then generated once the app finds out which contacts carried a risk (those that lasted more than 15 minutes, and within two meters from another user).

While this isn’t without flaws, a decentralized approach would be a compatible option that works on all users’ phones, considering Apple and Google control 99.5% of operating systems.

A centralized approach could provide better data analytics on the spread of a pathogen, but could also be a potential target for bad actors. With a database holding information on a global scale, that’s not something everyone is willing to risk, although the UK is willing to try and currently designing a centralized protocol that might not be compatible with DP3T (we wish them luck all the same).

It seems though, that we may all be downloading a new application soon! One without the risk of privacy intrusion, and with the benefit of knowing if you’ve bumped into somebody who might not show signs of infection yet, but is contagious.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world’s first contact-tracing app has arrived.

If you’re in need of assistance with IT Managed Services give EnhancedTECH a call at714-970-9330 or contact us at [email protected]

-Emmy Seigler

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/AsahNlC0VhQ

Samantha Keller
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