Helmholtz welcomes the decision of the Federal Government in favor of a consistently decentralized approach to developing a tracing app
“Helmholtz supports the decision of the Federal Government in favor of a decentralized solution that will be implemented by a broad international consortium. Germany plays a leading role in the consortium and is represented by the Helmholtz Center for Information Security (CISPA). The Center is working with partners at the national level to get an app up and running as quickly as possible,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of Helmholtz.
The decision by Head of the Federal Chancellery Helge Braun and Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn to implement a decentralized solution is based on preliminary work carried out by an international consortium in which the Helmholtz Center for Information Security (CISPA) plays a pivotal role. Known as DP-3T, the approach is being developed in cooperation with other international IT security and data privacy researchers, including EPFL, ETH Zurich, and KU Leuven.
“We’re pleased and grateful that this privacy-friendly solution, which has been developed by many other researchers in a cross-border effort, will soon be available for use across different countries,” says Michael Backes, CEO and founding director of the Helmholtz Center for Information Security (CISPA). The advantage of using this type of decentralized architecture for contact tracing is that the personal data of those using the app, their IDs, and their network of contacts are not compiled or processed at a single central location. All critical processing steps take place locally on the users’ smartphones. While data are exchanged via a server, this is less attractive to criminal hackers because the data stored there are intended to be passed on to all of the app’s users anyway.
DP-3T only allows the smartphone to store contact data locally. Each day, the smartphone retrieves a key for the Bluetooth IDs of residents who have tested positive and provided these voluntarily. The user’s smartphone then calculates locally whether residents have come into contact with the relevant Bluetooth ID and, if necessary, issues a risk warning along with information on where they can get help quickly.
DP-3T is completely open source and can also be evaluated and tested by external experts. A prototype of the app for Android and iOS was previously published on April 17. Switzerland is already aiming to roll out the decentralized approach in the country by May 11. Helmholtz is one of the German members of the consortium along with the Fraunhofer Society and other partners from business, science, and politics and is actively participating in efforts to implement this solution in Germany.
April 26, 2020