NIPH stops collection of personal data in Smittestopp
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All data collected by the Smittestopp app will be deleted and further collection will cease after a notification of a possible, temporary ban from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority. “This will result in poorer preparedness as we lose time in development and testing of the app and will also lead to poorer control over transmission in Norway, says Professor Camilla Stoltenberg, Director-General at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).
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On Friday 15th June, the NIPH received a notification from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (NDPA) imposing a temporary ban on processing personal data collected by the app. According to the NDPA, the app interferes disproportionately in user privacy based on the current transmission rate in Norway, the chosen technical solution and the general support for the app.
Preparedness and control
“We do not agree with the NDPA's evaluation, but now we will delete all data and put work on hold following the notification. This will weaken an important part of our preparedness for increased transmission because we are losing time in developing and testing the app. Meanwhile, we have a reduced ability to combat ongoing transmission. The pandemic is not over. There is no immunity in the population, no vaccine, and no effective treatment. Without the Smittestopp app, we will be less equipped to prevent new local or national outbreaks,” says Stoltenberg.
The NIPH will reply to the NDPA by the deadline of 23rd June 2020.
“We hope to find a solution so that notification of infection and analysis of infection control measures can be introduced eventually,” says Stoltenberg.
Testing in three municipalities
The app has been tested in three municipalities but the low number of confirmed cases in Norway has made it difficult to test whether Smittestopp alerts users who may have been exposed to infection.
The first analyses based on data from the solution show that the physical distance between people has narrowed, with a noticeable change around the 10th May. This is important information that tells us how infection control measures are working.
“The app was developed rapidly, but the work involved in getting the app to work optimally has taken longer than planned, partly because there are few people who are infected. This is good in every way, also for further testing of the app for which we have made new plans. We were now in a phase where we believed that Smittestopp would be a useful tool for both contact tracing and control of the infection situation,” says Stoltenberg.
Norway is at the forefront among countries that are working to introduce digital contact tracing.
“It can be demanding to implement new methods that must be developed, tested and improved,” says Stoltenberg.
Keep the app on your phone
The app has been downloaded 1.6 million times and almost 600,000 active users are sharing data with the NIPH, according to figures from 3rd June.
“I want to thank everyone who has downloaded the app and sent data to NIPH. We hope they will keep the app ready on their phones. This means that we can quickly reactivate the app if we find a solution that the NDPA is satisfied with,” concludes Stoltenberg.
Information for Smittestopp users
As of Tuesday 16th June 2020, data will no longer be collected from the app. Personal data stored in the central database will be deleted as soon as possible.
For those who want to keep the app on the phone, it is advisable to disable the app by going to settings and pressing "App status" so that it does not consume battery, GPS or Bluetooth.