Wednesday 02 December 2020

Minister to commission coronavirus app after flopped fast-track effort

Health minister Hugo de Jonge is to commission the development of an app to trace the spread of coronavirus which meets all the government’s conditions, in the wake of this weekend’s flopped efforts to fast-track the process.

Experts were highly critical of all seven apps which made last weekend’s short list, particularly in terms of privacy and security and a number went on the record with their objections.

De Jonge told MPs in an overnight briefing that he was glad the weekend’s ‘appathon’, in which the seven apps were put through their paces by experts, had led to debate about the project.

‘I do not think lightly about bringing in digital support for source and contact tracing,’ he said. ‘But I will do no concessions about the conditions [for the introduction of an app]. And the eventual introduction of apps will happen in tandem with scientific research.’

New team

The minister said he is establishing a new team to come up with an app which does meet the government’s guidelines in terms of information security, privacy, basic rights, national security and inclusion.’

Privacy campaigners have raised concerns about whether the app will protect users’ anonymity and have queried its effectiveness, while security experts say the speed at which the app is being rolled out could leave it vulnerable to hackers.

The national health board association said there is no reason to introduce an app at the moment, given Dutch rules on staying home and social distancing have been extended to May 20.

The GGD is also setting up a task force to assess the willingness of people to use an app if one is eventually introduced.

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