In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile software applications have been developed worldwide. Such apps are part of a wider array of digital tools for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. The main aim of contact tracing apps is to identify persons who may have had physical contact to infected persons, and thus may become infected or ill. Whilst such apps do not exclude the risk of infection, they can play a crucial role in the prompt containment of the pandemic. This is particularly important in the case of superspreading events.
In Germany, the official tracing app was released for download on 16 June 2020. After criticism from data protection and IT experts, the authorities have opted for a decentralised data storage on the user’s smartphone. The app’s code is publicly available. Other countries took different approaches and developed centralised digital tracing systems using a variety of tools, including mobile device tracking, bankcard payments information, facial recognition and big data-generated behavioural patterns.
Overall, contact tracing apps have raised many questions in the context of COVID-19, including technical aspects, ethical concerns, data protection, security, and overall effectiveness. This virtual panel discussion compares different international approaches and experiences from a scientific perspective.
With this event, the Leopoldina has launched a new virtual format for global scientific exchange: Leopoldina International – a series of virtual panels organised by Leopoldina’s International Relations Department in cooperation with its global partners. At regular intervals, leading international experts present latest scientific findings. Leopoldina International offers a virtual room for the global scientific community to convene and for the public to engage in a dialogue with leading scientists.