This is how the federal government’s tracing app works

The German Corona warning app is available for download. The program is intended to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading again in Germany. The most important questions and answers at a glance.

The German Corona app is now available for download. With the help of the program, the corona virus in Germany could be further contained, as the corona warning app can be used to trace contact chains in an emergency. But how does the app work and what do you as a user have to consider? Here you can find all the important information about the federal government’s corona warning app.


Corona app – download, data protection and function at a glance

What is the Corona app?

The Corona-Warn-App is an application for iOS and Android smartphones that is to be made available to users from June 16, 2020. The tracing app (not to be confused with a tracking app) is not about tracking the location of individual users, but about tracking encounters. With the help of a tracing app, contact chains of corona infected people are to be tracked. The goal: consumers who have been in contact with people who have tested positive should be warned by the Corona app. You could possibly have contracted the infected person. 

What is the Corona app used for?

The federal government’s corona warning app does not protect you from contracting the coronavirus. It replaces neither the applicable distance requirements nor the important hygiene rules. The tracing app is intended to supplement the existing measures against the COVID-19 pandemic by interrupting the contact chains of people who have tested positive at an earlier stage.

According to current knowledge, infected people can be contagious 14 days before the first symptoms appear, without knowing about it. Some disease courses are even completely symptom-free. The faster a warned person knows about the risk of infection, the faster they can take their own protective measures.

Is the Corona app download free?

Yes. The Corona-Warn-App can be downloaded free of charge and runs on any modern smartphone, provided it supports the Covid-19 contact protocol. This may have to be activated in the settings of the smartphone.

Does the Corona-Warn-App run on my smartphone?

The federal government’s Corona warn app works on iPhones that have the current iOS 13.5 operating system installed. This iOS version is available for devices from the iPhone 6s or the iPhone SE. The older iPhones 5, 5s or 6 are not sufficient for using the Corona app because they are not supplied with the current iOS version with the designation 13.5.

With Android phones, the situation is a bit more confusing. Here’s Android 6 and support for Bluetooth LE minimum requirement. Furthermore, the Google Play Services must also be running and up to date, as the group does not provide the Bluetooth interfaces via Android itself, but via these Google services.

Where can I download the Corona app?

The federal government’s tracing app is available for download free of charge for Android smartphones in Google Play and for iPhones in Apple’s App Store .

Yes. No user in Germany is forced to install the Corona app on their smartphone. The installation of the software is a voluntary decision. However, the more people have the app installed on their end device, the more people can benefit from the additional protection in an emergency and the more precise and comprehensive the tracking of encounters becomes.

How does the Corona-Warn-App work?

The Corona app tries to track contact chains and records which smartphones have come close to each other. To do this, the devices exchange randomly generated crypto keys via Bluetooth. For this purpose, each device randomly generates a new ID every few minutes, which is stored locally on the device for a maximum of 14 days . If two devices on which the tracing app is installed recognize each other, this is similar to a “digital handshake”. This relevant contact is then saved for 14 days. In addition to the IDs, the time and duration of the contact and the signal strength are recorded. The distance is estimated based on the signal strength.
If a user tests positive for Covid-19, he can share the test result in the app so that users who were in his vicinity are informed. Infected people are expressly asked whether they want to share the result for contact tracking. As an alternative to digital transmission, validation is available via a Telekom call center.

Can this even work with Bluetooth technology?

It is clear that the short-range radio Bluetooth was never invented for this task, but for other purposes such as connecting a wireless keyboard and computer mouse to a PC or streaming music from a smartphone to a speaker. However, Bluetooth is better suited than other technologies for estimating distances between two devices.

Can my immediate surroundings see my contact details?

No. In the data exchange between two smartphones on which the Corona app is installed, the user’s clear information is never used. The app first generates an anonymized daily key. From this, new temporary IDs are generated every 15 minutes, which are then exchanged with the other smartphones. They do not allow any direct conclusions to be drawn about the user of the app. The constantly changing temporary IDs are stored locally in lists on the smartphone for 14 days and then deleted.

What about data protection and the security of data?

Tracing via Bluetooth technology using the decentralized approach is the most privacy-friendly of the possible alternatives. The Federal Government’s Corona app is pursuing this approach. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) has commissioned TÜV-IT to check the Corona warning app for security gaps and weaknesses in data protection.

The greatest attention is paid to IT security, data protection and personal rights during the development of the Corona warning app. No movement profiles are tracked, instead Germany relies on a decentralized approach with tracing via Bluetooth technology. The distance between two smartphones is measured. If this falls below a critical value for a certain period of time, both devices exchange an encrypted code.

Only afterwards does a user find out completely anonymously via a comparison exclusively on the smartphone that they have had direct contact with an infected person. In addition, the principle of voluntariness applies. It starts with the download of the app. They decide for themselves whether those affected should report their own infection. If the app is deleted, this also applies to the data. Personal information, however, is not even collected.

How is the data of the Corona app saved?

The anonymized data of the contacts are stored decentrally on the respective smartphone. The comparison of whether you have encountered an infected person is done locally on the mobile phone. Only the anonymized list is stored centrally and regularly accessed by the smartphones in order to identify possible problematic encounters.

Can the Corona app really help fight the pandemic?

Experts assume that a digital solution can be an important tool in combating the corona pandemic and is long overdue. Some experts assume that the app can only help if as many as possible use it. According to the Federal Government, however, anyone who uses the app is helpful in tracking contact chains. It will probably only be seen in a few months whether the app will ultimately bring the benefits that epidemiologists expect from it.

What happens if a user tests positive?

If a user has tested positive, you enter this status yourself in the app. The aim of the reporting system is to prevent the wrong infection report from entering the system by mistake or on purpose. To prevent misuse or error, this status must be officially confirmed. This is done on the one hand via a QR code that you receive from the test laboratory. Alternatively, you can also enter a TAN, which you can get from a telephone hotline, as not all laboratories are able to generate QR codes. In the event of an infection, the affected contacts who were in the vicinity of the infected person receive a message that they should be tested.