Corona warning app: This is how the German tracing app works

© Deutsche Telekom / SAP

The Corona warning app for Germany is developed by Deutsche Telekom and SAP.

With the Corona Warning app, Deutsche Telekom and SAP have jointly developed the official German Corona app. It is intended to help millions of users of Android smartphones and iPhones in Germany to recognize, track and stop COVID-19 infection chains at an early stage. Our FAQ explains how this works in practice and what else you need to know about the Corona warning app.

Corona warning app for Germany: what is the current status?

At the end of May, Deutsche Telekom and SAP published the program code for the Corona warning app for Android and iOS on the Github platform. Now it is time to fix errors. Loud Blog post by SAP CTO Jürgen Müller a release in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store is planned for mid-June.

Note: Which Corona app is used for what? With our overview of Corona apps from Charité to RKI, you can avoid confusion.

How does the Corona warning app work?

The goal of the Corona warning app is to inform smartphone users about contacts with COVID-19 infected app users. In this way, they can go into quarantine at an early stage and interrupt infection chains. In detail, the app does this as follows:

1. Free and voluntary installation of the Corona warning app

As soon as the Corona warning app is ready, it will be offered free of charge in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for Android smartphones and iPhones. The download is voluntary. There is no compulsory or even compulsory installation in Germany.

The user must then agree to the data protection conditions and grant the app permissions for blood use and notifications. The main work now takes over the respective operating system.

© Deutsche Telekom / SAP / Montage: connect

“Combat Corona together”: With this welcome screen, the Corona warning app welcomes all users and provides information about the app.

Good to know: The Corona warning app user interface is available in German and English at the start. Other languages ​​such as Turkish are to follow. Accessibility functions such as reading aloud or zoom functions should also be integrated.

2. Contact tracking via new Android and iOS API

For contact tracking, the Corona warning app uses the Exposure Notification Framework, which Google and Apple have developed together as a contact tracing API for Android and iOS. Here, via Bluetooth Low Energy, it is pseudonymized which other smartphones have been close to the user smartphone for a longer period of time.

To put it simply, the smartphone generates an ID every 10-20 minutes to prevent third parties from recognizing it. These minute IDs are communicated to other smartphones that are identified nearby via Bluetooth Low Energy. Each smartphone now stores in a list locally for 14 days which other smartphones were recognized in this way.

© Google / Apple

Thanks to Bluetooth tracking, the smartphone saves which other smartphones have been nearby. In the event of a Covid 19 infection, these can then be warned.

3. User will be notified via contact

Conversely, all smartphones with activated contact tracing API regularly download a list of all IDs in the region that tested positive for COVID-19 from the server. If there is an ID among these, which the smartphone lists in its 14-day list, the user is warned via notification and receives recommendations for behavior.

Important: The warned users do not find out when, where and with whom this contact took place. Here too, the identity of everyone involved is protected as far as possible.

© Deutsche Telekom / SAP / Montage: connect

The home screen of the Corona warning app (Android left, iOS right): The current risk status is displayed here and the option to enter Corona test results is provided.

4. Corona test and verified message

If the warned user can then be tested on COVID-19, the Corona warning app can also display the test result from the laboratory. The prerequisite for this is that the laboratory supports the electrical transmission process via a scanned QR code.

If the COVID-19 test is positive, the user is asked to report this to the server via the Corona warning app and to upload the list with the collected contact IDs from the past few days. In doing so, the user must enter a TAN generated by the authorized healthcare worker, which verified the positive test result. This is to prevent misuse through false reports.

If the message is successful, the ID of the smartphone is added to the server list of the positively tested IDs. This is described in step 3, compared with all other smartphones against the respective 14-day list and any contact persons identified are warned if necessary.


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When will the Corona app for Germany come?

The Corona warning app for Germany is expected to start in June 2020. Deutsche Telekom and SAP are exhibiting at the official website for the Corona warning app Development updates.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google have started rolling out their contact tracing interface on smartphones. National authorities such as the Ministry of Health can then build on these with their own app solutions.

Where can I find the Corona warning app as a download?

Technically savvy users can currently find the program code for the Corona warning app on the project platform Github. A preliminary version of the app can already be compiled after the data has been downloaded.

With the official release, the Corona warning app is offered to end users via the common app marketplaces. In the case of Android smartphones, this is the Google Play Store, for iPhones the Apple App Store. As soon as the download is available, it will be available on the official website for the Corona warning app published and linked.

Corona Warn app – update podcast

Source: Deutsche Telekom

17:52 min

Is the Corona warning app mandatory?

The authorities in Germany repeatedly emphasize that both the installation and use of the Corona app are voluntary, as well as the reporting of a positive test for Covid-19 in the app. Likewise, it is up to all users themselves to react to a warning about contact with a person who has tested positive.

Reading tip: Wrong corona apps – beware of malware

However, the app can only have a positive effect on the development of the COVID 19 pandemic in Germany as long as sufficient users install the Corona warning app and follow the recommendations.

Government spokesman Seibert on the use of the Corona warning app

Source: Federal Government

1:31 min

What criticism is there about the Corona warning app?

Already in the run-up to the publication there was criticism from various sides. At the beginning, data protection officers warned against the centralized approach and not completely anonymized user data. The Chaos Computer Club wrote in an article “10 touchstones for the assessment of contact tracing apps“formulated and later in one open letter with other network policy organizations reaffirmed the demand for a decentralized solution.

Here the government gave in and switched to the current decentralized open source approach. Transparency in data protection and the disclosure of the program code should ensure broad social acceptance.

There was also criticism from other sides. When it came to network policy, Dr. Stefan Brink, State Representative for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Baden-Württemberg, points out the difficulties of Bluetooth technology and questions the sufficient social support of this solution based on voluntariness.

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