In Brief

Coronavirus: Norway deletes contact tracing data over privacy concerns

Scrapped app uses centralised information storage system like that planned for UK

Norway is to delete all of the information collected by its coronavirus track-and-trace app after data protection watchdogs raised concerns over privacy.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) announced yesterday that the app was being suspended over claims that “it was too invasive”, The Guardian says. 

But NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg said that she disagreed with the Datatilsynet data agency’s assessment, and warned that shutting down the app would weaken Norway’s response to the outbreak. “The pandemic is not over,” she added.

The app - known as Smittestopp (“Infection Stop”) - was one of the first released by Western governments and relies on “both Bluetooth connections and a centralised database of users’ GPS locations”, Sky News reports.

Similar centralised storage systems are planned for contract-tracing apps to be used in France and the UK, adds The Guardian.

The data is stored for 30 days and used to track transmissions and warn people who may have come into contact with anyone infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

But the Norwegian data protection authority says health chiefs have failed to demonstrated that it is “strictly necessary” to collect location data.

The app has been downloaded by around 1.6 million people across Norway, but was being used on a daily basis by just 600,000 of the country’s 5.3 million inhabitants.

The BBC reports that Norway is now considering a “switch to a rival design backed by Apple and Google”.

The two tech firms’ “decentralised model” gives users a higher degree of anonymity, but also provides less data to model the spread of the virus, according to the broadcaster.

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