Decision on coronavirus app to take more time; Privacy still a concern

It will be a while yet before the government decides which of seven apps demonstrated at a so-called "appathon" over the weekend will be used to track who coronavirus patients had contact with. Each of the app designs presented on Saturday and Sunday still have flaws that first need to be worked out, Ministry of Public Health official Erik Gerritsen said to RTL Nieuws.

The idea behind the app is that if a person is diagnosed with Covid-19, the app will send a message to all mobile phones that were close to the person, warning that their owners may also be infected. The government hopes that the use of such an app will mean they can relax some of the general strict measures to curb the spread of the virus, according to the broadcaster. 

"I have not yet heard an expert say we already have enough information to choose," Gerritsen said. According to him, the impression that the government would choose and present an app within the next week or two is incorrect. The most involved Ministers will decide on Tuesday whether they want to continue with the corona app, not what app will be released and when, he said. 

The Dutch data protection authority AP, which the Ministry asked to assess the apps on privacy, also said that it can not yet say that any of the seven apps can guarantee users' privacy. According to AP, the government's frameworks for the apps are not clear enough. For example, it is not clearly defined who will be responsible for processing the data collected by the app - a private party, a healthcare institution, the government? The government also dit not make clear why alternatives less invasive than the app would be less effective at containing the virus, the authority said.

"The whole of the Netherlands would like to go outside again, to take steps towards the normal situation," AP chairman Aleid Wolfsen said. "But we must avoid deploying a situation of which it is unclear that it actually works, with the risk that it will mainly cause other problems. Or that someone who cannot or does not want to use an app may be refused access to work, school or a supermarket."

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