This spring, while the US government was spinning its wheels on an official covid-19 response, countries around the world were rolling out national contact tracing apps. Beginning with Singapore in mid-March, more than 40 countries have launched digital exposure notification systems, to varying degrees of success.
Our Covid Tracing Tracker logs each country’s app and the technologies used, noting privacy considerations and giving each one a transparency rating. We regularly update the tracker to document changes–for example, after finding that several countries rolled back privacy measures. Among the other changes: countries whose apps have been suspended, relaunched, or replaced.
Iran’s AC19 app, which claimed to detect covid-19 infections but was actually spying on users, was banned from the Google Play store and no longer appears to be in use. Meanwhile, Japan’s app has been suspended at least twice because of glitches. The country plans to allow entry to overseas travelers for the delayed Tokyo Olympics as long as they present negative covid-19 tests and download tracing apps.
Some other countries initially developed their own systems but switched to the Google/Apple notification system after it became available. Norway has just relaunched a new app with the same name as the original, after addressing privacy concerns and switching to the Google/Apple framework. Finland’s pilot app from earlier this year has been replaced with an app using that technology as well. Similarly in the UK, an initial trial app was scrapped after it was discovered to have problems detecting iPhones nearby; it was replaced with a Google/Apple system in September. (The new system faced problems too: in November it was reported that the app failed to notify users to isolate after coming in contact with infected people.)