A group in Switzerland has decided to launch a vote against Switzerland’s contact tracing app, an application designed to make it easier to know whether someone has been in contact with someone infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
On 25 June 2020, Switzerland’s contact tracing app, known as SwissCovid, became available for download.
Created by a group of specialists at EPFL the app allows chains of infection to be traced by informing people if they have been in contact with anyone infected. Countries, like South Korea, that have done a good job of this have been able to quickly isolate infected people and halt the spread of the virus.
The app, which is voluntary, uses bluetooth to sense other phones in close proximity. If someone you have been in close contact with later tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 you will typically be notified, enabling you to test and isolate before you have a chance to infect someone else.
The app has been downloaded nearly 1.85 million times so far, according to Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). However, only 959,815 apps were active on 11 July 2020.
The Epidemic Act, a body of laws governing the app’s use and the handling of the data it collects, stipulates that all appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken so that no one using the system can be identified. Data may only be saved on individual mobile phones and must be deleted when it is no longer required for notification.
However, despite assurances, some people seem to have a visceral dislike of the technology. They claim there was no real debate about the risks it poses. National Councilor Jean-Luc Addor, a member of the Swiss People’s Party and the only federal parliamentarian in the referendum organising committee, says that the group fears a “digital dictatorship”, according to various media reports.
The proposed referendum, under the slogan “Stop Swiss Covid”, aims to have the app eliminated. The committee believes there are risks with the use of Bluetooth technology. In addition, it is concerned that data from the app must go through the operating systems of Google and Apple, which may skim off data.
Ironically, the organisers have shared documents relating to referendum signature collection via Google docs, according to RTS.
In order to have a popular vote or referendum on the app, organisers must collect 50,000 signatures by 8 October 2020. The Federal Chancellery said that organising a referendum has no suspensive effect on an urgently passed law. If sufficient valid signatures are collected, the vote is likely to take place next year.