Switzerland Is the First Country to Launch a Contact-tracing App to Alert People of Potential COVID-19 Exposure
The European country will be using technology created by Google and Apple.
The first app using Google and Apple's contact-tracing API has launched in Switzerland.
Swiss authorities need to pass a vote before the app can be rolled out to the general population, but the "SwissCovid" app is now in its pilot phase and available to members of the army, hospital workers, and civil servants per the BBC.
The app uses Bluetooth signals to keep a record of what other phones the user has been near. If a user develops COVID-19 symptoms they log it in the app which then alerts all other users who have spent more than 15 minutes within 2 meters of the user.
"In our design, information is processed locally and all data are automatically deleted after 21 days. In addition, no user personal data is stored centrally, and contact tracing data never leaves the phone unless authorized by the user," said Srdjan Čapkun, one of the app's developers at ETH Zurich. The app has also been open-sourced, allowing cybersecurity experts to scrutinize it for any security flaws.
Čapkun said the app is planned for a more wholesale rollout in June, but as the first app to use the Google/Apple API it needs time to take on board user feedback and weed out any "teething troubles."
When Google and Apple rolled out their specialized "exposure notification" application program interface (API) earlier this month, they said 22 public health authorities had approached them to implement it in their own contact-tracing apps. A spokesperson for Apple declined to name the 22 countries to Business Insider "out of respect for the work being done by all the health authorities around the world."
Some countries, including the UK and France, have elected to build their own contact-tracing apps rather than use the Google/Apple API so as to be able to centrally pool and analyze user data, which is prohibited for apps using the API — although the UK reportedly started work on second app which does use the Google/Apple API after it ran into technical issues building its own.