After the example of many Asian countries including China, Korea, Singapore, Italy also wanted its own App for tracking positives from Coronavirus, obviously of Italian production. A choice that has divided public opinion, between those who demand the containment of contagion and those who want to protect privacy. Although the two should not be in conflict.
In a few days Italy will enter phase 2, which will correspond to a loosening of the lockdown; perhaps the most controversial measure for the prevention of a possible upsurge is the use of contact tracing Apps, already experimented by many governments. Italy also made its choice on the 16th April: Immunity of Bending Spoon, an App that works by tracing people’s paths and highlighting if there are infected cases nearby. However, this implies having people choose between fighting the spread of COVID-19 and putting their data protection at risk.
To find a balance between these two diverging opinions, the Italian government has decided to make the App voluntary. In reality, the fear of those who do not favour the App is not only about privacy, data control and theft, but goes far beyond: the fear is that the dissemination of data is used to have control over the population, with serious consequences for personal freedom. On the other hand, there are those who argue that the App, with appropriate limitations, should be mandatory like vaccines, as a measure necessary to safeguard everyone’s life, a position supported by Shoshanna Zubof, American professor and writer, in a Repubblica interview: the data should be managed only by a public body and used for the good of society rather than by web giants who use them for profit. The opposite thesis of Yaval Noah Harari, expressed in the article ‘The world after the virus’, published by the Financial Times also had a lot of follow on the same theme: according to Harari the problem is badly posed and we should not choose between privacy and health, indeed the governments they should focus not on punishment and tracing but on the sharing of scientific news and the growth of civil liability to obtain collaboration in the right behaviour. “If we do not make the right choice – Harari writes – we may find ourselves having to give up our most precious freedoms thinking that it is the only way to defend our health.”
Returning to the Italian case, in the Immuni App the actual tracking takes place via Bluetooth, but there is also a clinical diary where you can write down your health conditions; the data, both your own and those of which you have come into contact, will be kept on your device which will be assigned a temporary ID that varies often. If one of the contacts is positive, you can download your anonymous code to a ministerial server which, if recognised among the codes of your memory, will be notified to mobile users with the App. However, the Ministry for Technological Innovation has specified that the chosen application will be oriented towards privacy and will not access the contact list, will not know the phone number and will not send SMS; it will not store the data for geolocation but will only record contacts by ID; the application will be managed entirely by public entities. But for it to be effective, at least 60-70% of Italians must adopt this solution.
This post is also available in: Italian