Italy launches COVID-19 Exposure Notification app to the public

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Italy on Monday launched its COVID-19 contact tracing app based on the Apple-Google Exposure Notification API, becoming one of the first to be available to the public.

The app, called Immuni, is based on the coronavirus-tracking developer framework announced by Apple and Google in April 10 and released on March 20. The Apple-Google API contains a variety of privacy protections, including decentralized storage of user data and use of Bluetooth instead of Location Services.

Immuni, which was released to the public on June 1, was developed by the Italian Ministry of Health and Ministry for Innovation Technology and Digitalization. It is now currently available on the App Store.

Italy's Ministry of Health said that the app "does not (and cannot) collect any data that would identify the user," and does not use GPS or geolocation information.

Like other apps based on the Apple-Google Exposure Notification API, the app instead uses Bluetooth Low Energy signals to track other people whom a person has come into contact with. If that person tests positive for COVID-19, those recent contacts will be alerted and told to self-isolate and get tested.

The country maintains that all contact logs and other data, whether stored on servers or user devices, will be deleted "when no longer relevant, and certainly no later than December 31, 2020."

Health experts maintain that contact tracing apps need to be downloaded by about 60% of the population to be effective. Per a poll on May 26, about 44% of Italians said they would "probably or certainly" download Immuni, according to Reuters.

The Italian app appears to be one of the first in the world to be released to the public. In late May, Swiss officials announced their first effort as the first app to use the Apple-Google API, though that app is still in beta testing.

Other countries in Europe, such as France and the U.K., have decided to forego the Apple-Google framework in favor of their own solutions. Those apps will likely face issues with Bluetooth integration, however.

The Exposure Notification framework is also currently available to public health agencies in the U.S.

As of June 1, no U.S. state has adopted it. Several states have signaled that they plan to test or use it, while states like Utah have opted for their own solutions.

 

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