Everything you need to know about the CoronaMelder app
The Dutch coronavirus app, CoronaMelder, will launch nationally on Saturday, October 10. After months of deliberation between politicians, the House of Representatives has approved Health Minister Hugo de Jonge's law which will regulate the use of the app.
Want to make sure you're ready to use the app when it launches? Read ahead for all the information you need about CoronaMelder.
Development of the Dutch coronavirus app
The Dutch government has been attempting to develop and launch a coronavirus tracking app for several months. On July 1, trials of the CoronaMelder app started in Twente, and residents were able to download the app to test whether it met all requirements in terms of privacy, user-friendliness, and security.
On August 17, the app became available in all Andriod and iOS app stores, and members of the public across the Netherlands were able to finally download it. However, for the past two weeks, the app was only fully functional in the provinces of Drenthe and Overijssel. This was the final stage of testing before the app became usable in all Dutch provinces.
Then, a last-minute change of plans meant that the launch of the app was postponed. It was supposed to be fully functional for the whole country on September 1, however, complications with privacy and concerns about De Jonge's temporary app law meant it had to be pushed back.
How does CoronaMelder work?
The CoronaMelder works via Bluetooth. Every device with the app is issued a personal ID number. The app then uses Bluetooth to follow your movements, and whether you have come into close or extended contact with someone who is or has been infected with coronavirus.
If you test positive for the virus, then you can press a button in the app to send an anonymous notification to everyone you’ve been in close contact with to notify them. For the app to work, both the infected person and the non-infected person have to have the app downloaded on their mobile phones. The aim of the app is to allow more people to be notified quicker if they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus, thereby reducing the virus’ spread. If you get a notification, you are advised to quarantine for two weeks.
Downloading and using the app has not been made mandatory in the Netherlands, however Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has said that at least 60 percent of the Dutch population has to use it for it be at its most effective.
The CoronaMelder will work in conjunction with the existing source and contact research carried out by the GGD. But, while the researched conducted by the GGD relies solely on the memories of patients, the app will be able to work beyond that to alert more people of their risk of infection.
Protecting your privacy while using the app
Because the app works using Bluetooth, and not GPS, it isn’t monitoring your location, and so won’t know where you are. You also aren’t required to enter any personal information into the app when you download it, so it won't know who you are, or who the other people are that your app exchanges codes with.
The government says that, throughout the development and testing process, there are a number of strict requirements that the app had to meet.
- Privacy - the app uses as little information about you and your location as possible.
- Information security - the CoronaMelder cannot be hacked and no data can be leaked.
- Fundamental rights - fundamental human rights are protected, for example no one can force you to download the app.
- Accessibility - as many people as possible should be able to download and use the app successfully.
Once the app is launched, developers will continuously test it for safety.
However, many people are still critical of the app. The Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) believes the guarantee for the privacy of users is still insufficient. They ask for the government to prepare agreements with Google and Apple about the software they provide for the app, and to introduce a law to ensure the app is properly regulated and that any servers used are secure. Following this advice, De Jonge has taken steps to introduce a CoronaMelder law which will operate alongside the existing Public Health Act.
Using the CoronaMelder
The CoronaMelder app is available in a number of languages, including Spanish, German, French, and English. Job Jansweijer, who helped develop the app, explained the CoronaMelder had been tested and developed for a number of audiences, to ensure it was easy and clear for everyone - everyone who wants to use the app, has to be able to. He highlighted the role language plays in this: "Language couldn't be a barrier, because only together can we get the coronavirus under control."
The cabinet is also hoping to introduce a fine for anyone who misuses the app. This fine, which could be up to 8.000 euros, is targeted at any employer or company that requires employees or customers to download the app. The cabinet hopes the fine will allay fears among users that they will be coerced into downloading it when they do not want to.
To find out more about the app, you can visit the CoronaMelder website.