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The Smittestopp app now works across national borders
There are currently strict travel restrictions in force. But when the borders reopen, it will be possible both to notify and be notified if you have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 across the EU and the EEA, regardless of which national infection tracking app they use.
For now, it will only be possible to report that you have been infected using the Smittestopp app if you have been tested in Norway, for example after returning home after travelling abroad.
Data sharing with other countries is voluntary and your consent will be requested if you report that you have been infected.
“This means that the Smittestopp app will have a much higher usefulness, particularly with regard to travelling abroad and if you have been in close contact with people you do not know but that have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” says Gun Peggy Knudsen, Assistant Director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The solution has been implemented quickly and potential areas of improvement will be addressed going forward.
What do users need to do?
– What do Smittestopp users need to do in order to access the new functionality?
– A new version of the Smittestopp app has been released and users must ensure that they update the app on their phones if updates are not installed automatically. You do not need to provide consent again for use within Norway. But if you report that you have become infected, you will be asked whether you consent to also sharing the data with infection tracking apps in other countries and would, in such a case, need to consent to sharing information within the EU and EEA. You will also be asked which country or countries are relevant, says Gun Peggy Knudsen.
Pan-European server facilitates data exchange
Several European countries have developed their own infection tracking apps based on the Apple-Google framework, which is also used by the Norwegian Smittestopp app. Data is exchanged through a pan-European server. All countries are joint data controllers for the data that is exchanged.
The countries that are currently linked to the pan-European server that exchanges data between the apps (European Federation Gateway Service) are Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Latvia, Poland, Cyprus, Croatia, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium.
How it works
In the same way that your phone exchanges keys with other Smittestopp users, your phone will exchange keys with phones belonging to users who have enabled corresponding infection tracking apps from other countries. The reason for this is that the different countries’ infection tracking apps are based on the same type of technology that is found in the users’ phones. The technology does not distinguish between which country’s app the user has downloaded. This means that you may receive a notification about infection from a user of a different country’s infection tracking app without knowing that the infected person is using a foreign app. A user of a different country’s app will not be able to get a test and report an infection in Norway.
Can help identify infections that are not tracked in other ways
In order for such notifications to take place, it is necessary for your one-way keys (data used to generate data about the phones that have been close to others and that cannot be traced back to you, but that other phones can use to check whether they have been close to your phone) to be forwarded to a pan-European server where they are made available for download in the infection tracking apps from other countries.
“The advantage of this is that Smittestopp will be able to identify infections that would not have been identified through manual infection tracking, often because you are unable to list people you have been in close contact with while travelling to and from the country and whilst abroad,” says Gun Peggy Knudsen.
Read more about technical and organisational details linked to the collaboration, as set down in the European Commission’s implementing decision on Commission implementing decision (EU) 2020/1023 (PDF).