It is to be free, voluntary and not to force sharing any information. Almost 70,000 downloaded the first version of the ProteGO Safe application within one and a half months. times. Today it has a new version for Android. For now, PLN 2 million has been spent on work on it.
The Minister of Digital Affairs Marek Zagórski announced that from today you can download the new version of the ProteGo Safe application. This application is to support the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic in Poland. Its task is to monitor contact with people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus and to notify users that they have had such contact, and thus potentially are at risk.
This is a new version of the application, which premiered on April 20. The first version of the ProteGO Safe application operated based on a centralized system, which raised experts’ reservations about the privacy of application users . Now, however, after providing the appropriate programming tools by Apple and Google, it was possible to build a decentralized system.
And thus from today works the full version enabling the so-called contact tracing, i.e. contact tracking to warn of possible infection.
Contact tracing to the rescue
The operation of the ProteGO Safe application looks like this: after downloading it to your phone, log in with a unique nickname and give it permissions. Since then, the application saves where and when the owner met with other people. Of course, as long as they have the application installed. Saving this data is done in the new version, as provided by the digitization department, only locally, i.e. on the user’s phone.
If a coronavirus is detected at the user, the person will receive a one-time PIN from the sanepid , which he will be able to enter into the ProteGO Safe application . After entering it, the application will send information to other people who have contacted the infected. Notified will be able to test for the presence of coronavirus and quarantine.
So much theory.
Everyone, i.e. at least 60 percent
– Everything in your hands. That is the slogan of the campaign advertising the new application – says Minister Marek Zagórski. – The success of the application depends on how many people install it. The more, the more effectively it will be possible to track the spread of coronavirus – emphasizes the head of the digitization department.
– I would encourage everyone to have such an application – added Minister of Health Łukasz Szumowski during the conference.
And here is the clue of the whole thing. For such a solution to have any relevance to the fight against a pandemic, it must be downloaded by most of society. The scale of Singapore is an example of this . Although it is practically only one city with a highly digitized society, and the local Trace Together application has been around since the beginning of April, only 25% downloaded it anyway. with 5.7 million inhabitants. The resistance has turned out to be so great that the Singapore government is now considering introducing a special wearable device that will monitor social contacts.
In Poland, only 70,000 were downloaded with the first version of the application within a month and a half. times, including 37 thousand for Android. – For it to work, it would have to download at least 30-40 percent. citizens – admits Zagórski.
Mateusz Romanow, the main creator of ProteGO Safe says that according to the calculations of prof. Tyllal Kruger from the University of Wroclaw this scale should be even larger, i.e. reach a minimum of 60 percent. people. Looking at the current download rate and interest it is still 485 months or about 40 years and we have it!
And according to British analyzes, this penetration should reach as much as 80 percent. of the whole society. So de facto it should cover all adults.
However, according to him, we have a better chance because, unlike the one from Singapore, the Polish application works in a decentralized environment. In addition, most of the downloads were carried out on iOS, on which scanning did not work smoothly in the background. – Our application is much more efficient in this respect – it ensures.
We don’t want data!
Everyone responsible for the application, like the mantra, says that it provides privacy protection and will not store user data. – Neither the government nor administrators will have access to information collected by the application – assures Marek Zagórski. – All information is stored on the device. Only at the time of risk of infection will the appropriate notification come to the user.
But how many times the government does not ensure that privacy is protected, this issue is still a matter of concern. As Łukasz Olejnik, a consultant and cybersecurity researcher, warns on his blog : – Because the Ministry is a public institution, it therefore has potentially rights and opportunities to obtain knowledge about the actual identity of the user "behind" the IP address. IP addresses in this context can therefore potentially be seen as personal data. Referring to specific persons. This means that already sensitive data processed in the contact tracking application would be even more sensitive, because – if that were the case – it would be the data of identified users.
Most important: be the first
Only that not only the issues of user data protection are still raising questions and comments. Tomasz Zieliński, author of the blog InformatykZakladowy.pl, who constantly works on ProteGO Safe, mentions several problematic aspects. It is still impossible to perform an independent application review or security audit. The server operator will be able to deanonymize users, anyway, there is no anonymity at the start, because any user who wants to enable Exposure Notification on their device will knock on the servers of the Ministry of Digitization.
The executive module will be able to lie to the user. – Exaggerated, fictitious example about the policy: due to the large number of infections in the mines, all ProteGO Safe users connecting with Silesia receive a "tuned up" executive module that will never turn off the contact tracking function, although after clicking it will show a message on the screen to deactivate this functions – writes Zieliński.
Another problem also pointed out by the Panoptykon Foundation is that "the publisher of the application will be able to replace the trusted app with a new version at any time, looking the same, but working completely different." And finally, that in the event of a possible attack on the ministry’s server, the malicious code may reach all ProteGO Safe users.
The medicine scares you like a disease
According to specialists, all these problems can be solved. But of course it will take a lot of time and work. For now, however, from the statements of the Polish government emerges one key issue for him: we are one of the first countries that created such an application and released the full version with the possibility of contact tracking. This race for priority covers other, not less important aspects.
Like even serious psychological fears about downloading such an application. The British daily Guardian reports that scientists from Imperial College have just conducted a study on 10,000 people registered in the NHS (public healthcare) system. Yes, on average 60 percent people are ready to download the application that tracks COVID-19. But among those who suspect they have a virus, this readiness has fallen to 27 percent. Conclusion: patients are afraid that the application will cause them to be treated as second-class citizens.
The client with the application is less adventurous
Not only the British have such fears. Until recently, the Ministry of Development proposed that shopping malls should be able to let more customers, but only if they have the ProteGO Safe application . The government quickly withdrew from this idea. And today it is hard to say that the application will be optional. Zagórski also assures that there are no plans to go even further in the footsteps of Singapore and introduce mandatory wearable devices for those who do not download the application.
When we add to all these fears a very pragmatic argument that in Poland about 25 percent. devices are too outdated to allow contact tracing with the help of Bluetooth technology, it may turn out that we are indeed one of the first countries with such an application. That perhaps it is even quite safe and that it has good intentions behind it. But well, the real effect will be only those PLN 2 million that has been spent on it so far.
And even storming Twitter entries from newly created accounts that praise the application will not help.
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The application will notify you if you have met the infected. If we download it at all