Norway’s health authorities suspended the use of its COVID-19 tracing app and deleted all location data collected amid new privacy criticism from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (DPA), reported The Local.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) launched the smartphone app Smittestopp (“infection stop”) in April was used to collect location data of COVID-19 carriers.
The country’s data privacy watchdog raised several red flags with the app on Friday, indicating that it’s too “invasive” now that COVID-19 infection and death rates have slowed.
“Smittestopp is a very invasive measure, even in an exceptional situation where society is trying to fight a pandemic,” DPA said in a statement. “The legality of Smittestopp depends on the social benefits.”
The NIPH responded to DPA’s criticism of the app and said:
“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.
“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,” NIPH said in a statement.
Norway has mostly avoided the pandemic versus other countries in Europe. The country has only seen 8,639 confirmed cases with 242 deaths. At the moment, there are only 16 people hospitalized with the virus, with just 4 in intensive care.
COVID-19 Cases In Europe
COVID-19 Deaths in Europe
Smittestopp uses Bluetooth and GPS to track and detect users when they are near a COVID-19 carrier. The app was downloaded 1.6 million times, but active users have dropped to about 600,000 since confirmed cases continued to decline.
Med hjelp fra @roysolberg har jeg laget en
Trafikken på skjermen er Smittestopp-appen på den andre telefonen som sender. pic.twitter.com/eqmqUePzYe
— Hallvard Nygård (@hallny) April 18, 2020
DPA questioned the effectiveness behind Smittestopp, considering its low participation. NIPH said the pandemic is not over, and suspending the app’s usage could undermine the country’s effort to combat the spread.
Tracing apps have been controversial in Europe and elsewhere around the world — many have alleged these government-sponsored tracking apps infringe on people’s rights by collecting location data.
Earlier this month, the US government and law enforcement agencies used tracing apps and big tech to identify rioters.
The war on COVID around the world has ushered in a massive surveillance state with tech weaponry that governments can deploy at any time: thermal imaging cameras, drones, contact tracing, biometric databases, etc.
No one is safe from the government in a post-corona world — they’re watching everyone’s move. But in Norway — the tracing app has been turned off – however, with threats of a second virus wave “has arrived” — it’s only a matter of time before the app is turned back on.