The ‘I don’t have corona’ apps are coming, how does that work?



About five hundred people gathered in the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht for another afternoon of old-fashioned laughter.Image Joris van Gennip

This Saturday, 1300 enthusiasts will come together in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam for a dance event organized by ID&T and MOJO. “A unique show, as we have not experienced it for a long time,” said the organizers. In pre-corona times these would have been hollow words, not now. A week later, even more lucky people are welcome to the Lowlands site for a dance festival and – a day later – music festival with De Staat and Maan, among others. It sounds like an anachronism.

How is all that possible? These types of events are part of a series of practical tests called Fieldlab. Two weeks ago, for example, a few hundred visitors were already welcome to a performance by comedian Guido Weijers in the Beatrix Theater and football fans at the match between NEC and De Graafschap in Nijmegen.

Bubbles

At all these types of events, visitors are divided into a number of ‘bubbles’. Some visitors have to show the result of a pcr test and be temperature, others are given a rapid test. The results of this are loaded onto an app, which also contains a passport photo. The visitor then shows his app to the inspector, who sees the passport photo on his screen and – if all goes well – a green tick as proof of a negative test.

This digital solution was developed by the Unlock consortium in which various parties are involved, including Rabobank, Deloitte, the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, TNO and Leiden University. The aim of this consortium is to reopen Dutch society in a controlled manner.

Digital safe

The central building block is a digital safe in which personal data (such as passport, passport photo, but also health data such as a corona test) are stored. Unlock uses an app called IDA for this, developed by the Rabobank fintech startup of the same name. ‘Citizens’ privacy is paramount,’ Unlock promises on its site. And that is what Peter Verkoulen of the consortium also says: ‘Everything is stored locally on the mobile phone, no one can access it further. The user has full control over his data. ‘

How the Unlock solution works with the IDA wallet Image Unlock
How Unlock’s solution works with the IDA walletImage Unlock

But anyone who takes the trouble to read the terms of use and privacy can be shocked. ‘We may always give all information about you to other divisions of the Rabobank Group’, it says, for example. And also that all data can be passed on to ‘other parties in countries that do not have the same level of protection of personal data as the European Union.’

Time pressure

Yet both Verkoulen and Joris Lange (CEO of IDA) swear that the data will not be shared with anyone. “Even if we wanted to, we can’t do it at all.” Why then that confusing privacy statement? Verkoulen calls it ‘an administrative sloppiness under the time pressure of the experiments’. After the test phase, Unlock will only work with an app whose conditions are crystal clear, Verkoulen promises. That can be IDA, but also another digital safe.

Lange of IDA also acknowledges that the conditions are ‘confusing’: ‘We are going to formulate this differently. The practice is more favorable than the conditions. ‘ Stefan Kulk, lawyer and researcher at Utrecht University also suspects this: ‘It is especially sloppy that they have copied some conditions together. The user then receives confusing signals. ‘

Own government app

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is working on a similar app, called CoronaCheck. This should be ready by mid-March. Minister Hugo de Jonge emphasized last week after the press conference that this app is being developed ‘in all openness’.

It is still unclear how the app will look exactly. For example, it is not yet certain whether the app also works with a passport photo. In the letter to parliament of 23 February, De Jonge says that ‘finding the right balance between the degree of protection of personal data and the prevention of abuse’ is the greatest challenge. He does not rule out tampering with negative tests of other persons: “The importance of privacy and information security outweighs the complete exclusion of all possible abuse.”

Not for vaccine certificates

Lange says it is a shame that the ministry did not want to collaborate with the private parties behind Unlock to arrive at one joint app. But according to a spokesman, the ministry wants to keep everything in its own hands: ‘You want maximum confidence. That went well with the development of CoronaMelder. ‘

Incidentally, these types of apps could also be used in the future to prove that someone has been vaccinated. However, D66’s plan to give people who have been vaccinated more freedom cannot count on the support of other major parties, as it turned out during the RTL election debate on Sunday.

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