It is not news that in several countries around the world there will be applications that will warn us if we were close to someone with COVID-19, but will it affect our privacy?
This is a question that has been widely spoken among several countries and organizations, and this type of measure against the virus is seen as a violation of users' privacy. On the one hand, it seems so, but several points show that the application will not be as serious as it seems, as the simplest example, the option of having the function active or not.
Recently, a webinar was held with the STAYAWAY Covid application development team, the Portuguese tracking program, which is being developed among some well-known entities in the country. It explained how it will work and what we can expect from the application.
How does the COVID-19 tracking function work?
This new function will work very simply, using the smartphone's Bluetooth to identify people who are close and with the same active function. If an infected user passes close to the equipment, it will detect the code by receiving this information and alerting the user.
The shared data will be nothing more than anonymous and impersonal codes, shared publicly if the user is affected by COVID-19. These data will only be shared with the user's proper authorization and also with the authorization of a doctor, confirming the infection.
The applications on the smartphone will periodically download the latest code updates so that all information is correct based on reality. If there is any contact close the application will alert its user indicating that they should contact the health services.
Will my data be private?
According to José Manuel Mendoça, Full Professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and chairman of the INESC TEC Board of Directors, who coordinated the entire project of the mobile application, “All codes are anonymous, random and not anonymised, they do not leave the cell phone , only when voluntarily and with the doctor's certification, put them on the platform ”.
The professor adds that the codes will be eliminated after 14 days and subject to an evaluation made by the National Data Protection Commission and audited by the National Cybersecurity Center.
Will it help to prevent contagion?
The COVID-19 tracking application will undoubtedly help the various health services and the population in general, however, we cannot forget the human side that is the most important.
In this case, using the tracking function, it is possible to have for several days the various users with whom we come across, which in itself will help the authorities to identify some possible cases of contagion.
But, “for effectiveness to become efficiency, people have to use it”, warns Henrique Barros, who heads the Institute of Public Health at the University of Porto, a partner in the development of the platform. This application, in order to be effective, will have to be used by about 60% of the population, still a high number for a technological service of this kind.
The application is still in development, taking a few more weeks before it is ready to work fully. Also the APIs developed by Google and Apple are in their first phase, being later updated in order to give the various entities the best service possible.