German coronavirus warning app goes live: What you need to know
Good things come to those who wait: the German government’s much-anticipated coronavirus warning app is now available for download on all mobile phones. The more people who use it, the more effective it becomes. Here’s what you need to know.
German government’s coronavirus app launches
After weeks of preparation, Germany’s official warning app for the fight against coronavirus has finally launched. The new app was due to be presented at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday morning, but was made available for download shortly after midnight on Google Play and Apple Store (to download it, you need to make sure you have changed your app store country to Germany).
What does the coronavirus warning app do?
The corona app is designed to enable contact tracking for individuals infected with coronavirus, thereby interrupting infection chains at an early stage - before coronavirus symptoms have even become visible
It does this by measuring whether mobile phone users have come within two metres of each other over an extended period of time. If one of the users has tested positive for coronavirus and has shared this with the app, it reports to other users that they have come into contact with an infected person.
How does it work?
Rather than relying on geographic information (e.g. GPS or mobile signal) to track infections, the app works with Bluetooth technology. It turns your smartphone into a small “Bluetooth lighthouse” that transmits a temporary, anonymous identification number into the surrounding area, 16 times every two and a half to five minutes.
At the same time, the phone listens to whether it can receive Bluetooth signals from other devices. If users who both have the app running are within range of each other, the smartphones exchange their IDs.
What about my data privacy?
Unsurprisingly for Germany, privacy has been a particular sticking point during the development of the app, and the government has gone to great lengths to maintain users’ anonymity. Therefore no data will be stored centrally, and the user information you enter on your app will never be exchanged with other phones.
The only thing that is passed during data exchanges is your anonymised, temporary ID, which does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about you. The temporary IDs of anyone you have come into contact with will be stored on your smartphone for 14 days before being deleted.
What happens if a user has tested positive?
If you test positive for coronavirus, you are required to enter this in the app yourself. However, to prevent misuse or error, your test result must also be officially confirmed. This can be done by either scanning a QR code from the test laboratory or entering a TAN number - which you can receive from a telephone hotline, since not all laboratories can issue QR codes.
Once the infection is confirmed, all the individuals who came into contact with you will receive a message saying that they also should get themselves tested.
Do I have to use the app?
Downloading the app is voluntary - and the government has also ruled out incentives such as tax breaks or other benefits to encourage people to use it. But the more people who download it, the more effective it becomes, and so a massive advertising campaign is already underway.
How many people need to use the app for it to work?
According to a study by the University of Oxford, the app’s full effect can only be achieved if 60 percent of the population participates. That equates to around 40 million users in Germany. But, the researchers also said, “Even with a smaller proportion, we expect the number of infections and deaths to decrease.”
Download the app
If you would like to help the government track and control coronavirus infection chains, you can download the app now from Google Play or the Apple Store - but make sure you change your app store country to Germany first!
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