The developing team of the protocol did not receive any notification about the deletion of the information. The PPEP-PT spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) Consortium is responsible for helping to develop protocols for a privacy-focused contact tracking system for the European Union. The group has removed everything related to the proposal for the Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP3T) protocol from its website.
Tracking contacts is the process that health authorities use to track the spread of viruses, identifying those who have been in contact with infected individuals and should, therefore, be in quarantine. In this sense, the countries are applying a variety of digital methods, which include cell phone location tracking, facial recognition, digital health passes that restrict movement, and Bluetooth proximity tracking.
Any contact tracker in the European Union will have to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which ensures that citizens of the European Union will have greater privacy and data protection than those currently applied in the USA.
The Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP3T) team did not receive any notification about the removal of the protocol from the website. Besides, the PEPP-PT did not invite them to a call that it made on April 17th, where several partners in the consortium participated.
It is not clear what a PEPP-PT protocol might look like, since the consortium’s website only lists general guidelines, without offering concrete proposals. A D3PT spokesperson said that a centralized approach has more privacy risks, as well as the potential for re-appropriating the information for other purposes, such as that of state surveillance.
The developers of the DP3T protocol say that its design would foster greater confidence in applications built on the protocol, making them more likely to be downloaded and, therefore, more effective.
Kenneth Paterson, a professor in the Applied Cryptography Group at ETH Zurich’s Computer Science Department, who is also working on the proposed DP3T protocol, said that he is unsure of the type of PEPP-PT system that is under construction.
As the system does not allow outside experts to review it, they cannot see the specifications, according to Paterson. Also, he noted that the fact of not being able to look at the code, it is impossible to detect any type of errors.
This opens the doors to the privacy problem since it could give governments the ability to build a social graph for anyone who downloads the application, and they could discover who is close to whom. To be useful in monitoring Covid-19, at least 60% of the population should adopt it, according to a document published in the academic journal Science.
Once more, decentralization proves to ensure the privacy of those users who use blockchain-based applications. For that reason, many people are against the creation of cryptocurrencies or centralized tools, since their data would be at risk. To better understand this, it is only necessary to think of the idea of a national digital currency that would keep control of the people who use it.
By Alexander Salazar