Contact tracing, towards cross-border application interoperability

Article
Arianna Fantesini
interoperabilità
Credit: pixabay

The European Commission has announced the start of the first test for the creation of an interoperability gateway service. Once operational, by October, the cross-border operation of the different national applications developed in Europe for contact tracking and user alerting will become possible.

This testing phase is the first step to exploit the full potential of contact tracing apps with a view to a common and coordinated approach for their use, especially during the easing up period of Covid-19 containment measures.

The objective of interoperability is to facilitate travel and improve crisis management within Europe following the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the installation of a single national application, individual users will be able to report a positive Covid-19 test or be alerted if they have come into contact with an infected person wherever they may be in the European Union.

The setting up and development of the gateway has been entrusted to T-system and SAP while it will be operated from the Commission’s Data Centre in Luxembourg.

WHAT IS THE GATEWAY FOR?

The gateway is an IT infrastructure that provides a common interface to securely and efficiently receive and transmit relevant information sent by contact tracing apps and national servers. In particular, it ensures the transmission of information between the back-end servers of official contact tracing apps and allows them to function seamlessly across borders.

In other words, through the activation of this service, every Italian citizen, for example, will be able to travel to Germany (or another EU country) and continue to use the Immuni app, which will then be able to interact with the German Corona-Warn app.

The official contact tracing apps involved in the first phase are those from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Latvia, but the aim is to extend the service to all mobile applications developed in Europe based on a decentralized architecture.

ITER AND PRIVACY

The creation of the gateway service is part of the broader package of tools for the use of mobile contact tracing applications developed by European countries, with the support of the Commission, within the eHealth network.

Before reaching the testing phase, between May and June, Member States agreed on interoperability guidelines and a set of technical specifications. On July 15, the Commission adopted the Implementing Decision (EU) 2020/1023 to provide a legal basis for the tool.

The latter states that personal data exchanged through the gateway will be encrypted, limited to the minimum necessary, and kept only for the time strictly needed for the tracking of the contagions. The same data will also be pseudonymized, so it will not be possible to identify individuals. Finally, the Commission will be responsible for the security of the processing of personal data entered in the gateway.

On this matter, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “Data security, fundamental rights and privacy protection in these digital tools will be non-negotiable“.