Luca, Corona warning app and Co .: Without a strategy into chaos – digital


The future of an app can be read deep in its program code, its constantly changing DNA. At least if it is openly online like that of the federal government’s corona warning app. If you looked closely at the code last week, you could almost see live how programmers tinker with a new function: In the future, users will be able to “check in” in restaurants and at concerts by scanning a printed QR code with their mobile phones. Those who then test positive can warn everyone who is also checked in with the app. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, this should work “shortly after Easter” on the nation’s cell phones.

This is particularly interesting because the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania began on Friday to use another app for 440,000 euros that does almost exactly that: Luca. It’s just one of many such programs, but thanks to its advertising medium, it gets Smudo from them Fantastic Four much attention.

It is understandable that the battered gastronomy and concert industry see such apps as a way to earlier openings. But the case also shows how haphazardly German politicians are buying and using software in the pandemic. And how badly the federal corona warning app is integrated into the rest of the pandemic strategy.

In contrast to the Luca app, the function that the programmers of the federal app are currently working on cannot be connected to the health authorities. This is prevented by the strong data protection of the app. Because two goals of the German Corona strategy turn out to be incompatible: On the one hand, the app for tracking contacts should be data-efficient. On the other hand, the health authorities should be able to contact the guests of events and restaurants after local outbreaks.

Even without a check-in function, the federal app warns thousands of people every day. No personal data is stored centrally. Above all, however, the app is an infrastructure on which the aforementioned event registration (also known as “cluster detection”) could be based. The app has already been installed on 26 million cell phones. Millions of people could suddenly have contact tracing technology in their pockets with which they could go to restaurants. With apps like Luca, however, the federal states are starting from scratch again.

Because politics has maneuvered itself into a dilemma: The Corona warning app would be the natural channel for event registration. But Jens Spahn and the RKI would have to break their data protection promise or find creative ways to record guests despite data protection. Instead, the exemplary data protection of the federal app now means that the countries buy apps where the data is transferred under non-transparent circumstances.

Apps that are much less transparent than the federal warning app are procured quickly via gang. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania there was not only no tendering process, details of the previous data protection checks are also unknown. The community of professionals cannot verify how secure the app is. Only after public pressure did the makers of Luca promise to reveal their code at the end of the month. The country could only use the code to determine whether the app is doing what it promises and whether the citizens’ data is safe.

If each country buys its own check-in app, in the worst case you will end up with 17 different QR codes – for 16 apps from the federal states and the federal app – hanging in a bar that wants to please visitors from all federal states (from foreign tourists not even to talk). This then looks like an exhibition of coarse-grained abstract art, but it would be a wild growth that once again raises a question: Are federal, state and companies pulling in the same direction in the German fight against pandemics?

SAP and Telekom, who have developed the federal app for up to 69 million euros, have also proven to be of little help so far: They have indeed offered the federal government to integrate external apps such as Luca into the federal app or to include personal data themselves to be captured. They only made the suggestion a week ago. Although it has been clear since the summer that the recording of bar guests and concert goers has to be done digitally in order to end the paper mess. Slips of paper on which many people only enter the names of cartoon characters anyway.

In line with the threatening jungle of apps, the federal government is suspected by experts of luring money out of their pockets with the digital vaccination certificate with the most notorious “buzzword” in the tech industry: we’re talking about the blockchain, of course. The new vaccination card will use five of these digital test registers. Added value: unclear.

That has to be a lesson from the pandemic: The digital is not a bonus, because you just have to have an app. Software must be integrated centrally into the strategy. Instead, wildly non-transparent apps are now being bought and sold as a route to freedom. It’s like Smudo once rapped: “They’ll probably find it funky, even though it’s not funky at all.”

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