EU member states agree on mobile tracing apps
By ECCT staff reporters
EU member states, with the support of the European Commission, have agreed on a set of technical specifications to ensure a safe exchange of information between national contact tracing apps based on a decentralised architecture, according to a press release on the EU’s Europa website. This concerns the vast majority of tracing apps that were already – or are about to be – launched in the EU. Once the technical solution is deployed, such national apps will work seamlessly when users travel to another EU country which also follows the decentralised approach. This means an important additional step towards interoperability of mobile apps for tracing coronavirus infections, as member states begin to lift travel restrictions across borders in time for the summer vacation.
Most member states have decided to launch mobile apps to complement manual contact tracing of the spread of coronavirus. The great majority of national approved apps are based on a decentralised architecture, which means that the arbitrary identifiers of users that were detected for a certain duration in proximity remain on the phone itself, and will be checked by the phone against the identifiers of users reported to be infected. The technical specification for interoperability will allow these checks to be done also for users travelling from other member states, without the need to download several national apps.
The proximity information shared between apps will be exchanged in an encrypted way that prevents the identification of an individual person, in line with the strict EU guidelines on data protection for apps; no geolocation data will be used. To support further streamlining of the system, the commission will set up a gateway service, an interface to efficiently receive and pass on relevant information from national contact tracing apps and servers. This will minimise the amount of data exchanged and thus reduce users’ data consumption.
The technical specifications agreed today build on the Interoperability guidelines agreed in May, setting the general principles.
Member states will already be able to update apps to permit information exchange between national, decentralised apps as soon as they are technically ready. The commission continues to support the work of member states on extending interoperability also to centralised tracing apps.