SwissCovid app: Help by downloading the app08-07-2020 Autor: DSwiss
The SwissCovid app has been available in app stores since the end of June. It is said to contribute to improved traceability and the interruption of infection chains, thus helping to prevent the exponential spread of Covid-19. As service providers with a focus on privacy protection, we have taken a closer look at the app and absolutely recommend it.
Why is an app like SwissCovid needed at all?
If Covid-19 were to spread exponentially, the number of cases would "explode" within a very short time. In the past few months we have seen and learnt that measures such as partial or complete lockdowns are effective solutions in stopping the spread of the virus until such time as there’s a vaccine. However, from both an economic and human perspective, it is hardly sustainable to shut the world down for such a long time. In the meantime, we also know that the consistent tracking of all reported cases and the subsequent immediate isolation or quarantine of the sick and their contact persons, is effective in slowing down the spread. But it is also true that tracking becomes very problematic when the person’s contacts begin to grow exponentially – at some point it is simply no longer possible to track them all. And that's where the app comes in. If all contacts can be traced, the chain of infection can be stopped and the spread can be limited to a linear spectrum.
What does SwissCovid do and how does the app work?
Put simply, the app records all possible infection chains and sends an automatic alert if any of these chains include a confirmed Covid case. The aim is to immediately stop the subsequent infection chain. Since the SwissCovid app automatically communicates via Bluetooth with the same app on other cell phones, it records all possible “infection graphs”. This is done without using a central storage system, i.e. the information is only exchanged between two parties. To ensure privacy, all devices change their own IDs at short and regular intervals so that the app is unable to trace the movements of specific people, but still knows when contacts have been made between two people.
If a person falls ill, they receive a covid code (release code) from the cantonal authority, which they enter in the app. The app then automatically recognizes which identifiers were exposed to a risk and informs them that a risk contact has taken place. The “owners” of these IDs in turn receive a message that contact has been made with an infected person. The chain of infection can thus be quickly interrupted, namely by having the affected people test themselves and / or self-isolate.
SwissCovid has good privacy protection
There are various ways to achieve the objectives of an app in tracing infection chains. Theoretically, location data or even a central “data collection point” could be used. However, both approaches are objectionable in terms of privacy protection as this would allow a central body to collect and process people’s information. Such solutions do actually exist in various countries, but fortunately Switzerland is not one of them
The SwissCovid app was created right from the outset with a focus on privacy (see e.g. https://www.apple.com/covid19/contacttracing) and is based on a project by ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne, the so-called “Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-3T)”. The app was eventually developed in collaboration with a wide range of scientists, Apple and Google, as well as various app developers who created corresponding apps based on Google / Apple functions. The result is an app that is deliberately NOT based on GPS locations, as these would “reveal” individual people’s locations, but rather on Bluetooth communication between two devices. Since the data is stored locally on the respective devices, it is not collected by institutions or authorities and therefore cannot be misused. In addition, the app is open source and has been thoroughly tested by many experts, with various improvements already implemented thus far. Some examples can be found at MELANI and EDÖB. There have also been several penetration tests and code reviews, the results of which have been published. In general, it can be said that the now internationally standardized Covid tracking app enjoys top marks by experts.
DSwiss supports the SwissCovid app
Our conclusion: The SwissCovid app protocol was developed with potentially the highest possible privacy protection for this type of app. The app uses the international standard, which has been clearly documented and checked several times by experts. SwissCovid has also been successfully subjected to numerous tests evaluating all aspects of performance, including security testing and security reviews, with longer beta test phases. The SwissCovid app allows a slight return to normality and is therefore a very important aid in avoiding further restrictions. Since we are convinced that SwissCovid offers privacy protection, we recommend using it without restriction. Statistically speaking, the SwissCovid app is most effective when installed by as many people as possible, which is why we hope that it enjoys widespread success.