For months, the EU Commission and the member states have in principle agreed that as many national corona warning apps as possible should be able to interact across borders. According to its own information, the Brussels government institution has now developed a technical solution in the form of a back-end server and a cross-border data synchronization service, which six countries have been testing since Monday. These include Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Germany.
The matching service is being developed and set up by the T-Systems and SAP groups, who have already programmed the German Corona Warning App (CWA). The infrastructure will then be operated from the Commission’s data center in Luxembourg. The executive body wants to start real operations in October immediately after the end of the test run.
Most member states have now launched a mobile application to better track coronavirus infection chains, or are planning such a step. The Commission designed the comparison service on the basis of an agreement within the framework of the e-health network of the member states, according to which the national systems should in principle be interoperable and use a decentralized, particularly data protection-friendly architecture. The next step is a more extensive exchange of information via a gateway between the back-end servers of the national applications.
Users should only have to install one app and still be able to report a positive test or receive a warning message when traveling to other member states. According to the Commission, arbitrarily selected identifiers are received and forwarded between the interoperable national systems via the matching service in order to keep the amount of bits and bytes exchanged and the data consumption of the users as low as possible.
The exchange of information is “pseudonymized and encrypted and is kept to a minimum”, stresses the Brussels body. All data would only be stored “as long as it is necessary to trace infections”. Individuals could not be identified with it.
Not for central systems
Member states like France, which rely on a central server solution, are left out of the approach. In the German neighboring country, the number of infections has risen particularly rapidly in the past few days. European countries like Switzerland pursue a decentralized approach, but do not belong to the EU and would therefore first have to sign a bilateral interoperability agreement for cross-border app use.
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has high hopes for the step that has now been taken. The Frenchman was confident that the matching service would make traveling easier in times of the pandemic and “save lives”. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stressed that as the number of cases increases, mobile applications could complement other measures such as “increased testing and traditional contact tracing by health authorities”.