Berlin The effectiveness of the Corona warning app is questioned again and again, even by prominent politicians. This does not prevent those responsible from constantly improving them. The FDP does not go far enough with the extensions.
The parliamentary group is therefore proposing to significantly expand the functionality of the application in order to obtain more data to contain the coronavirus. The FDP members of the Bundestag made a corresponding decision this Saturday at a digital parliamentary group meeting.
The population must be more involved in the digital pandemic fight. “This can only succeed if we take into account the different willingness to pass on data,” said the parliamentary group’s technology policy spokesman, Mario Brandenburg, to the Handelsblatt.
According to the FDP, app users will in future be able to decide for themselves how much of their data they want to disclose. The data release should be made possible via an “easily understandable step model”. Then there would be a choice of four data packet sizes (“S”, “M”, “L” and “XL”).
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In the basic version “S”, the app remains a “data-saving warning instrument”, explained Brandenburg. At the “M” level, additional data would be collected, for example, to identify clusters in which a particularly large number of people come together, or to facilitate the collection of contact details, for example in the catering trade, using a QR code. “This ends, for example, from a data protection point of view questionable paperwork when visiting a restaurant when social life is restarted,” said the FDP politician.
Merkel defends the app’s high level of data protection
Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) recently brought a check-in function for restaurants and events into play to put an end to the paperwork. Leading economists had recently questioned the effectiveness of the app and criticized the high demands on data protection, which had been taken into account in the development of the app.
In a guest article for the Handelsblatt, the economic wise men also emphasized: “Even without conflicts with data protection, the Corona warning app could be improved in such a way that the incentives for the voluntary transmission of information and test results are strengthened.” Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) also recently emphasized that the high level of data protection in the app is very important for the acceptance of the application. “A corona warning app for far fewer users with less data protection would not be good either.”
The Corona warning app has been downloaded more than 25 million times so far. Experts estimate that it is actively used by around 23 million people. The effectiveness of the app increases the more people actually use the application.
If an app user were to opt for the data packet size “L” according to the FDP’s “step model”, additional GPS-based measures to combat pandemics would be conceivable. An “XL” size could also include an “automatic data donation for research purposes” in order to provide important information for future pandemics.
New app version in the app store since Friday
The FDP politician Brandenburg believes that the additional functions can be provided by adapting the current warning app. “Elementary” is that the program code is always transparent as “open source” and that the transfer of data must be actively approved (opt-in) “so as not to gamble away the trust of the population”.
A new version of the app has been available for download since Friday. The application now contains an information area with the most important key figures on the current infection rate in Germany. According to the figures published there, almost 230,000 people who have tested positive for the corona virus themselves have used the app to warn their fellow human beings of possible dangerous encounters. The daily value here is almost 1500.
In the app, users could also access the latest figures on new infections, the seven-day incidence and the seven-day R-value. Furthermore, the developers have improved the user-friendliness and fixed some minor errors.
The seven-day incidence shows the number of new infections within the past seven days and is given per 100,000 inhabitants. It was determined by the federal and state governments with a view to counties and urban districts as decisive for new restrictions in the corona pandemic.
The R value, which is also called the number of reproductions, indicates how many people an infected person infects. If this number is below one in the long term, it indicates that the infection process is subsiding. Because then one infected person is on average less infected than one other person. The R-value, which is calculated by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), allows conclusions to be drawn about the development of the epidemic.
The app should be further improved in the coming weeks. From mid-February, the application should therefore also be able to run on the older iPhone models 5s and 6. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, this change will increase the pool of compatible smartphones in Germany by up to four million devices.
More: Data protectionists warn against calling into question fundamental rights in the fight against pandemics for no apparent benefit.