Smart phone Covid-19 contact tracing apps accomplishing little

In May, a report said Iceland had achieved the largest penetration of any virus-tracking app, with 38% of its 364,000 inhabitants installing it. But the Iceland app, which collected people’s GPS data, “wasn’t a game changer,” according to Gestur Pálmason, the deputy chief inspector of Iceland’s Covid-19 tracing team. Oxford University researchers have said 60% of a country’s population would have to download a tracing app in order for it to be effective.

“There isn’t a single country in the world to date that would be able to point to an app and say: ‘That was a game changer,’” Stephanie Hare, an independent technology researcher, told CNBC.

Singapore, which was seen as a pioneer in the development of tracing technology, has seen about 2.1 million downloads of its app. This translates to about 37% of the country’s population — still well below the recommended 60% threshold. And although digital tracking measures seem to have helped in countries like China and South Korea, critics say that these technologies came at the expense of privacy.

Source: Why coronavirus contact-tracing apps haven’t been a ‘game changer’

Did you know that the Iceland app could only detect  about 14% of potential contacts?  That’s why phone -side app tracing doesn’t work.

The reporter does not understand that China and South Korea use network-side phone tracking. That tracks 100% of phones – both smart phones and dumb phones. China also incorporates mandated scanning of QR codes upon entry to stores and malls to track time and place. Neither has much to do with Bluetooth-based contact detection. Both countries then follow up with intensive in-person contact tracing.

Bluetooth-based detection cannot detect surface contacts in time – for example, some sits at a restaurant table or a bus seat, and coughs. They get up and leave and some one else takes their seat. The Bluetooth-based systems cannot detect this.

The above linked story ends with this inanity:

For them to work, experts say they need to be part of a wider health strategy that encompasses mass testing and strict physical distancing measures. Germany’s app — which adopts the Apple-Google approach — has shown signs of promise, with 14 million people having downloaded it since its launch last month. 

Sounds impressive right? Well … Germany has 80 million people so that means 17.5% have installed the app – which means an ability to trace 3% of potential contacts. The reporter thinks this “has shown signs of promise”. Really?