TraceCORONA – Contact Tracing for Pandemic Response

New (2020-06-06): Beta test version 1.8 of TraceCORONA App is now available for download!

 This updated app version 1.8 contains several improvements:

  • Multilingual app: English and German UI
  • Improvements in Bluetooth communication
  • Improvements in usability and user interface

Caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 disease spreads particularly through direct contact between people. Health authorities face the challenge of identifying and isolating infection chains to prevent the pandemic from spreading further. This task usually involves manual effort and relies on the contact information that is voluntarily provided by infected people and is often incomplete or inaccurate. Hence, infection chains have to be reconstructed by the authorities with an enormous amount of work for each case and yet are not always accurate or complete.

Mobile Apps for Contact Tracing

Using advanced digital tracing apps on mobile devices can help reduce manual effort and significantly increase tracing accuracy. This has already been successfully demonstrated in Asia (e.g. Singapore, China, Korea). However, these tracking technologies collect highly sensitive data from individuals. However, data protection and privacy regulations, especially with regard to medical data, vary from country to country and are often more restrictive than in Asian countries. Hence in Europe and US scientists and technologists are investing effort in similar approaches that can provide an appropriate level of privacy.

Tracing Apps are Only Part of the COVID-19 Solution

Based on many discussions with fellow researchers in China, USA, Spain and Germany, we concluded that what is required is a comprehensive ecosystem of services to address the questions and problems of people affected with the COVID-19 pandemic. These services can not only be used to help people cope with the situation, but also to gather useful information about the dynamics of the pandemic and its societal effects in a privacy-preserving manner.

A tracing app can provide users with the initial warning that a contact with an infected person has taken place. However, this is only the starting point to a process in which users need rapid and reliable information and personal advice about their situation and what they should and should not do to prevent a further spread of the disease. This requires the possibility, e.g., to be able to talk with doctors or hospitals in a secure and privacy-preserving manner, and, to obtain up-to-date and trustworthy information about the pandemic situation in general.

TraceCORONA Addresses User Needs

  • Anonymity without compromises: The TraceCORONA App captures contacts between users in a completely decentralised and anonymous manner using cryptographic Encounter Tokens instead of short-lived pseudonyms. This provides an unmatched level of anonymity and privacy to its users.
  • Secure messaging with health experts and organisations: TraceCORONA offers the possibility for users communicate securely and privately with doctors or healthcare experts to get answers to their concrete situation, e.g., with regard to self-isolation measures to be taken or participate anonymously in pandemic-related surveys. For example, colleagues in Spain obtained in a very short time more than 140000 responses to an online survey, allowing them to make extremely interesting findings about the dynamics and societal impact of the pandemic.
  • Prevention of Fake News: Misinformation can provoke panic and unjustified fear among the population, which is an ever-increasing problem, as pointed out by an open letter by numerous health professionals published recently in The New York Times. Through the integrated trusted browser in TraceCORONA, users can have direct access to information about the pandemic originating from reliable sources, thus mitigating the harmful effects of the ‘Infodemic’ caused by the spreading of Fake News.
  • Interoperability: Other applications (including other Tracing Apps) can dock onto the secure communication platform of TraceCORONA, providing also the possibility to operate across national borders.

Secure and Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Tracing and Information Platform

TraceCORONA is designed to be not only a tracing app, but a system concept that allows the TraceCORONA tracing component as well as other possible tracing apps to integrate into a secure health platform for private healthcare-related services over a well-defined secure interface.

TraceCORONA App

At the core of the TraceCORONA design is the TraceCORONA App, which enables the anonymous and decentralised tracing of contacts between users and allows users to determine whether they have had a contact with an infected person. The advantage of the app is that tracing happens anonymously: the backend components receive no information that would enable them to trace contacts. This is possible only for the devices actually involved in the contact between users and provides thus a maximal level of privacy for the users. For a description of how the TraceCORONA App works, please see here.

The TraceCORONA system concept is based on an existing security platform that has been deployed for many years and is being commercially used for high-security applications like on-line banking mobile apps or personal health insurance apps.

Using the TraceCORONA secure health service platform, users can opt-in to many useful services allowing confidential and trustworthy interactions with healthcare providers, testing centres, health authorities, hospitals and other comparable entities. These services will be implemented using the secure messaging / chat, secure document exchange and secure health process capabilities provided by the platform.

TraceCORONA system concept with integration to secure service backend

Contact

M.Sc. Thien Duc Nguyen

Dr.-Ing. Markus Miettinen

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi

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