At the beginning of the year it was still considered to be the bearer of salvation, today it is again in many places. In the event of a high incidence, the Luca application was intended to relieve the health authorities and to make blockages preventable. Six months later, the results are sobering. Health officials interviewed by Spiegel said the app helped break chains of contact in a total of 60 cases. Instead, there are new posts every few days about software connection issues, data protection, or security breaches.
To believe that health officials working with faxes and index cards would become digital model students in the midst of a pandemic was naive enough. Result: 13 Länder spent more than 20 million euros for the Promise of Salvation application. However, the software is only used effectively in very few health authorities. The experiences are quite different from state to state. In Berlin, the authorities are annoyed because they have to manually transfer the contact details that arrive with Luca to the software of the Sormas health service. It would also work automatically, but data protectionists in Berlin say no. In Bavaria, on the other hand, data protection officers are less strict and health authorities are more satisfied. However, the app is used rather sloppy.
Because even without strict data protection officers, Luca causes a lot of effort. According to its own statements, the app has sent around 15,000 warnings to users’ cellphones nationwide in the past 14 days; two weeks earlier, so it was more than double. But no matter how many warnings Luca had, in the rarest of cases, those warnings were followed by action by authorities. It often turns out that Luca data is unusable because operators outfit too large areas with a single record, so infection is unlikely. Or users have not been re-verified after visiting a restaurant due to a technical issue. When in doubt, an office is more likely not to order a quarantine, after all, the respective government is paying for a possible loss of revenue.
Many countries insist on coordinates – against better knowledge
Even if Luca mastered the many data protection and security issues, the conclusion would remain that countries are spending millions on an application that is little used by health authorities. This is all the more annoying when you consider that the Corona Warning (CWA) app, which is also funded by millions from the government, offers almost the same functions. With the CWA, users can also check in at restaurants and cultural venues and are notified later if other visitors test positive. The only difference: the CWA records the detour via the health authorities and warns other users anonymously and directly. It’s faster and more data efficient, but unfortunately does not comply with the corona protection regulations of most countries. So far, they have insisted on coordinates – against their best knowledge.
But the regulations on corona protection can be changed. How, North Rhine-Westphalia recently demonstrated. The country, which is one of only three federal states not centrally dependent on Luca, has removed the foodservice contact survey from the Coronavirus Protection Ordinance. Restaurateurs who still want to offer recordings should do so with the Corona Anonymous Warning App as there is no longer a legal basis for recording contact data. Instead, the 3G rule now applies in NRW from an incidence of 35: those who have not been vaccinated or cured need a negative test to go out to eat, for example – whatever their contact details. Unlike the Luca app, this is guaranteed to make the work of health authorities easier.
Some other federal states are slowly starting to realize that the part Luca is capable of doing in containing a pandemic is tiny. The model districts of Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia that Luca could use for free cease to use it. Also in Berlin, according to reports, a majority of parliamentary groups in the House of Representatives are unwilling to extend the contract with app makers into the new year. Other federal states should also consider whether the millions that are pouring into the app developer’s account might not be better invested elsewhere in the future.