Proposed decentralized Swiss COVID-19 tracing app protects user privacy

hand disinfection

An under-construction Swiss COVID-19 tracing app will use decentralized technology along with Bluetooth to trace infected contacts. DLT is known to protect user privacy and also serve contact tracing purposes. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in Switzerland reported that efforts are underway to develop a decentralized COVID-19 tracing app.

Coronavirus tracing applications are being built at breakneck speeds to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients. However, privacy concerns regarding the apps are causing anxiety among many. It seems that decentralized technology has come to the rescue as decentralized proximity detection apps ensure user privacy is not compromised.

Swiss COVID-19 tracing app to use DP3T protocol

The under-construction application employs the DP3T technology or ‘Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing Protocol.’ As per the application’s white paper, the blockchain-based app will trace contacts using Bluetooth technology and prevent any data misuse by the government authorities.

Globally, COVID-19 apps have come under intense scrutiny as users fear their location, and personal data can be used by governments with malicious intent. The Swiss COVID-19 tracing app won’t have a centralized ‘focal point.’ Unlike conventional apps, it will use DP3T that’s less vulnerable to privacy attacks. The device of each user will have independent data processing capability to restrict data sharing and hence limit data exploitation.

Most conventional tracing apps vulnerable to attacks

Carmela Troncoso from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology says that the new DP3T-based app is a perfect example of how privacy and contact tracing can go hand in hand. It shows that authorities do not have to risk citizen’s privacy in order to reign in the global pandemic. The societal support behind defeating Coronavirus must not be misused to violate the privacy of the population.

When a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus, the app will demand sanction from the health authority using an ephemeral Bluetooth identifier. Other users will receive this data and then process their proximity independently on their own devices and see if they were in contact with the infected person.

The dangers of centralized coronavirus tracking are becoming evident as more countries collect an unusually large amount of user data. Once the pandemic is over, profiling and tracing can be misused. Thus, solutions like the Swiss COVID-19 tracing app will help protect user privacy and also prevent the spread of the virus.

Gurpreet Thind

Gurpreet Thind

Gurpreet Thind is pursuing Masters in Electrical Engineering at University of Ottawa. His scholarly interests include IT, computer languages and cryptocurrencies. With a special interest in blockchain powered architectures, he seeks to explore the societal impact of digital currencies as finance of the future. He is passionate about learning new languages, cultures and social media.

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