ETSI gets to work on standard for contact-tracing apps

News

European standards body ETSI has launched a specification group for contact-tracing apps, which are proliferating due to coronavirus.

The Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection (ISG E4P) initiative will work on a standardisation framework to support the development of interoperable systems which automatically trace and inform potentially infected users, in addition to manual notification methods, whilst preserving users’ privacy and complying with data protection regulation.

Different countries have so far taken varied approaches to contact-tracing systems, with divergence over centralised and decentralised options, and the apps have also raised concerns about privacy.

Interoperability

As well as accelerating the development of smartphone-based apps to help break transmission chains, such a pan-European standardisation framework should enable interoperability between different proximity-tracing and alert systems, ETSI says.

ETSI Director-General, Luis Jorge Romero, said, “By their nature smartphones are highly personal devices, carrying large amounts of data about individuals.

In ETSI we are committed to [supporting] an international development community with a robust standardisation framework that allows rapid, accurate and reliable solutions while winning the trust of the population at large.”

Proximity

Contact-tracing apps calculate the proximity of phones using Bluetooth or other ultra-low-power communication technologies. These measurements can be mapped into a warning system that directly alerts individuals when they have been at risk of exposure to others who have already tested positive for the virus.

Ten organisations, including telco operators, vendors and research centres, have already joined the working group.