Public pressure aids privacy checks

Italy says it will share source code of Covid-19 track-and-trace app

Published on: 24/04/2020

The government of Italy will publish as open source the source code of a smartphone application developed to track and trace the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country.

The app was commissioned at the end of March by the Italian Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation, which opted initially for a proprietary software solution. Following public protest from privacy advocates and free and open source enthusiasts, however, the ministry this week announced that it had renegotiated the contract, and now has a free perpetual licence for the software.

According to the ministry’s statement, the supplier offered to make the source code available at no extra cost, “to help complete the development of a national digital contact tracing solution.”

The ministry’s announcement has one single sentence in bold - indicating that the source code will be published under the Mozilla licence.

A snippet from the announcement, showing the Mozilla licence as the only sentence in bold.
Please notice the licence.

Security and privacy

Last Thursday, 45 Members of the European Parliament urged the European Council to consider making open source a requirement for coronavirus contact tracing apps. The MEPs argue that this will let citizens check the code to verify security and privacy.

On the same day, EU Member States and the European Commission published a toolbox for such applications. Following advice from ENISA, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, the toolbox recommends publishing the technical specifications and the source code as open source “as a way to maximise re-use, interoperability, auditability and security”.

Across Europe, governments are considering the use of contact tracing apps to help fight the Covid-19 epidemic. One part of the debate on digital solutions is about whether centralised or decentralised solutions provide better protection for user privacy (PEPP-PT/PEPP and DP-³T respectively).

In Italy, press reports indicate that the government is considering to switch its approach from PEPP-PT to DP-³T.

At 17:00 today, the European Commission will kick off a pan-European hackathon, #EUvsVirus, aiming to bring together “civil society, innovators, partners and investors across Europe” to develop innovative solutions for coronavirus-related challenges.

More information:

Decision by Italy’s Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation (in Italian)
EU Member States and Commission toolbox on coronavirus contact tracing apps
#EUvsVirus hackathon website
OSOR article on track & trace app
Joinup collection of digital solutions and initiatives related to Covid-19

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