Do we need it? Does it work?
It’s mid-April 2020. One month after imposing the ‘hard’ lockdown Germany is looking for an exit strategy. A central element of this exit strategy – based on early insights – was the introduction of a contact tracing app to identify people who had been in contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Can we or must we put aside data privacy to protect the health of millions of people? Data privacy, surveillance and people’s lives are the ingredients for a heated debate and the departure point for the first digital collaboration between the Foundation and Load e.V., an organisation campaigning for liberal network policy.
Leading experts were invited to participate in a debate to consider the multiple challenges, and also the opportunities, associated with digitalisation in the battle to control the pandemic. They included Konstantin Kuhle, Bundestag MP and the FDP parliamentary party’s domestic policy spokesperson in the German Bundestag,
Christin Schäfer, member of the Federal Government’s Data Ethics Commission; Dr Malte Engeler, judge at the Schleswig-Holstein administrative court, and Ann Cathrin Riedel, Board Chairwoman of LOAD e.V.
Rather than categorically supporting or rejecting the app, they focused on the issue of whether Germany is capable of duplicating digital contract tracing methods in the battle to contain the virus with the same success as other countries, particularly China, yet without sacrificing the personal data protection principles that are anchored in our values, our understanding of freedom and our laws.
They also debated the wider context of these often technical issues. “I am reassured by the fact that we live in an EU country where our society can participate in an open debate on solutions like these. And I hope that never changes,” said Konstantin Kuhle MP.