Covid app downloaded 100,000 times despite privacy concerns
The Dutch government's coronavirus notification app CoronaMelder was massively downloaded on the first day of its release, despite warnings from the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) that the app does not guarantee users' privacy sufficiently.
The app launched on Android and iOS on Monday. Within a day, the app was downloaded over 100 thousand times from the Google Play Store, RTL Nieuws reports. The Apple store could not give the broadcaster figures yet, but CoronaMelder was in the top three most popular apps in the Netherlands all day.
The idea behind the app is to help health service GGD with source and contact tracing. If an app user tests positive for Covid-19, the app can be used to notify all other app users who had been in close vicinity with the patient for longer than 15 minutes that they too may be infected and need to get tested if they show symptoms. The app is currently only functional in Drenthe and Overijssel, where it is being tested. The plan is to launch it Netherlands-wide in September.
After the app became available to download on Monday, the AP issued a warning saying that the app still insufficiently guaranteed users' privacy, according to the broadcaster. No agreements had been made with Apple and Google about the use of their Bluetooth technology, on which the app works. There is no law to properly regulate the use of the app, to make sure that people are not forced to use the app, for example. And the government hasn't shown that the servers the app use are in order and secure, the AP said.
In response, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said that the AP advice is "open to discussion" given the "increasing number of infections and the contribution that CoronaMelder can make in controlling the spread of the virus." He said in a letter to parliament that he is working on an emergency law to regulate the use of the app and plans to implement the law on September 1 or shortly thereafter.
The state attorney also concluded that the AP was too strict in its criticism. "The AP appears to pay relatively little attention in its advice to the extraordinary circumstances that prompted the development of the app," he said in a report, adding that he finds the advice "not necessarily convincing".