Norway suspends its COVID-19 contact tracing app due to privacy concerns

Pierluigi Paganini June 16, 2020

Norway’s health authorities announced the suspension of the design of a COVID-19 contact tracing app due to privacy concerns.

In April, Norway launched its contact tracing app dubbed Smittestopp (“Infection stop”) to trace the diffusion of the COVID-19 in the country.

A contact tracing app is a tool that could be used to contain new diseases, like Coronavirus, by tracking down and quarantining everyone that gets infected and localize any person that has been in contact with him/her.

Contact tracing technologies played an essential role in the containment of the pandemic in several countries, including South Korea, Singapore, Israel, and other nations.

On Friday, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Norwegian: Datatilsynet) issued a warning that it would stop the Norwegian Institute of Public Health from handling data collected via Smittestopp contact tracing app.

Datatilsynet is a Norwegian Government agency responsible for managing the Personal Data Act of 2000, concerning privacy concerns. 

Datatilsynet argued its decision citing the limited spread of COVID-19 in the country and the small number of citizens that have installed it. Only 600,000 citizens out of Norway’s 5.4 million inhabitants had been using the contact tracing app.

The privacy risks associated with the adoption of the app are not proportionate with the benefits of its use in the current context due to the above factors.

Camilla Stoltenberg, the director of the public health institute was disappointed for the decision but announced that the institute would now delete all the data collected by the app and it will suspend its work.

Stoltenberg considers the decision risky for the health of the Norge population because the Coronavirus is still spreading.

“The pandemic is not over,” she said.

The contact tracing app used a centralized data storage, a design solution that was already adopted in the UK and France.

In Norway, 242 individuals are died due to COVID-infection and the number of confirmed cases is 8.647.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – privacy, COVID-19)

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