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In linking COVID-19 apps, EU to face adoption, privacy risks

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Jeff Tyson

The European Commission has launched a new system designed to link national COVID-19 tracing apps across the European Union — starting with Germany’s Corona-Warn-App, Ireland’s COVID tracker and Italy’s immuni. With the system — known as the interoperability gateway — the apps can work in all participating countries.


Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government

Sarah Kreps

Professor of Government

Sarah Kreps, a surveillance systems and cybersecurity expert at Cornell University, has conducted nationally representative surveys showing that Americans are distrustful of contact tracing apps due to concerns over data privacy. Kreps says that the EU’s plans to link national tracing apps can complicate efforts to safeguard data and raise privacy concerns among participants.

Kreps says: 

“The European Union is now launching an EU-wide gateway, the equivalent of roaming so that Germany’s app works in Italy, for example. This kind of gateway is an essential prerequisite for being able to travel across boundaries without leading to an uncontrolled spread of the virus, but there’s also a risk. Trust is essential for the success of contact tracing apps, and often there’s considerable misunderstanding about the use and potential misuse of the data.

“Linking different countries’ apps that all use different architectures will only complicate matters. The European Commission must ensure that personal data is safeguarded, and then communicate those safeguards to the public to anticipate and address public wariness about data privacy.”

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