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Last minute decision has Germany backing the Apple-Google Contact Tracing Smartphone Technology over Europe's PEPP-PT

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Today, Germany surprisingly changed course over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries.


Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Berlin would adopt a 'decentralized' approach to digital contact tracing, in so doing abandoning a home-grown alternative.


Germany as recently as Friday backed an initiative called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), whose centralized approach was criticized by hundreds of scientists in an open letter last Monday as opening the way to state surveillance.


Braun told ARD public television in an interview: "We will back a decentralized architecture that will only store contacts on devices. That is good for trust."


One of the motivators for Germany's sudden switch my be due to "One of the members of PEPP-PT, Germany's Fraunhofer HHI research institute, was told on Saturday that it was being taken off the project, correspondence seen by Reuters showed.


Germany's change of tack would bring its approach into line with that taken by Apple and Alphabet's Google, which said this month they would develop new tools to support decentralized contact tracing.


Importantly, Apple's iPhone would under the proposed setup only work properly with decentralized protocols such as DP-3T, which has been developed by a Swiss-led team and has been backed by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia.


DP-3T said in a statement that it is was "very happy to see that Germany is adopting a decentralized approach to contact tracing and we look forward to its next steps implementing such a technique in a privacy-preserving manner."


PEPP-PT said it planned to issue a statement in due course. For more on this, read the full Reuters report.


On Friday, Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple & Google have made a series of requested tweaks to their COVID-19 Contract Tracing System ahead its May Launch." It's very possible that the changes that Apple and Google made public on Friday became another major factor in Germany's decision to make the switch.


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