1642349578 German police through the dust after serious privacy breach corona

German police through the dust after serious privacy breach corona app

In Germany, a corona app has become controversial after police used it to track people who were in the vicinity of a crime. The app in question is the Luca app, which is used in the hospitality industry and at sports clubs, among other places.

The police force of the German city of Mainz unlawfully used the app in an investigation into a crime case. In the process, the data of persons who were in the vicinity of the crime was shared with the authorities via the app. The German prosecutor’s office is launching an investigation into the privacy violation and more and more federal states are stopping the use of the app.

Private corona app Germany

This is a possible crime that took place in November 2021. A man dropped dead after leaving a restaurant in the center of Mainz. In the search for witnesses, the authorities requested unencrypted data from the corona app. In this way, detectives contacted people who were in the restaurant around the time of the crime. A total of 21 witnesses were found.

Good to emphasize: Luca is not Germany’s official corona app. It is a private iniative that allows visitors to restaurants and other public places to leave their details. Visitors scan a QR code at the entrance, fill in their details and can take a seat. If a visitor turns out to be infected, it is simple to trace where that person has been and for how long. The app replaces a paper list. The official corona app from Germany is called Corona-Warn and does not store any personal data or location data. Just like the Dutch app.

1642349578 614 German police through the dust after serious privacy breach coronaVisitors to public places register via Luca app – Click/tap for larger. (Image: Luca)

Serious privacy violation

The data in the Luca app is stored encrypted. Only when the restaurant in question and the local health department give permission are they unlocked. This can be useful for contact tracing, but criminal investigators are not allowed to see this data. There is a legal prohibition on using data from corona apps for police purposes.

The Mainz police force has apologized and says it will no longer use the data. Stefan Brink, data protection officer of the state of Baden-Württemberg, in an interview with Handelsblatt, calls it “an unbelievable mistake.”

Utility disputed

After the app became controversial, some German states already announced to stop contact tracing via Luca. Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are already sure about it and other federal states are considering it, according to Radio Bremen. The usefulness of the app for contact tracing is disputed. According to local health senator Claudia Bernhard, the app was not useful. Bremen linked only ten infections to the app and manually tracked down a multitude.