Coronavirus: Norway to delete all data collected from its contact-tracing app

June 15, 2020

Norway is to delete all of the data it captured through its COVID-19 contact-tracing app after the country's data protection authority raised concerns.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said on Monday that it would be halting the coronavirus app following a warning from the country's data protection watchdog.

Norway's app was one of the first released by Western governments following the COVID-19 pandemic and relied on both Bluetooth connections and a centralised database of users' GPS locations, which was stored for 30 days.

The app had been used by Norwegian authorities to track transmissions in the country and warn people who may have come into contact with someone who is infected.

A total of 8,628 people in the country had been infected as of Monday - 8,138 of whom have recovered, and 242 of whom have died.

On Friday, the country's data protection authority (DPA) said that the low transmission rates in the country meant that the app was no longer a reasonable invasion of people's privacy.

"We don't agree with the DPA's evaluation, but feel it is necessary to delete all data and put work on hold as a result of this," NIPH said in a statement.

"We will as a result weaken an important part of our preparedness against a spread in infection, as we now lose time for development and testing of the app."

Officially known as Smittestopp, or Infection Stop, the app has been downloaded by 1.6 million of the 5.3 million people in Norway, but has fewer than 600,000 average daily users.

NIPH said: "The pandemic is not over. We have no immunity in the population, no vaccine, and no effective treatment.

"Without the Smittestopp app, we will be less equipped to prevent new outbreaks that may occur locally or nationally."

In the UK, a trial version of the NHS contact-tracing app had been rolled out on the Isle of Wight, but has not been used across the rest of country amid delays and repeated setbacks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock previously said the aim was to have the whole system up and running by the middle of May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had then promised a "world-beating" system would be ready by 1 June, but the government's lead for the app - Dido Harding - has now said it won't be available until the end of the month.

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