Glitch leads to Germany’s coronavirus tracing app ‘not working for millions’

Glitch leads to Germany's coronavirus tracing app 'not working for millions'
Photo: DPA
Users of Germany's pioneering corona warning app on Android operating systems often did not receive notifications due to a design failure, Bild newspaper reports.

Millions of users of Samsung or Huawei smart phones were warned too late or not at all about possible contact with a coronavirus positive person, the newspaper reported.

This was due to the fact that their Android operating systems automatically stopped the app's necessary constant background updating as long as it was not open.

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A spokesperson for the software company SAP, which co-developed the app, told Bild: “There was indeed a problem with earlier versions of the app in terms of background updates on Android devices.”

But the Health Ministry pushed backed against the tabloid's claim that it had “embarrassed itself.”

A spokesperson insisted that the app had worked “at all times” but that certain Android devices prevented all apps from running permanently in the background.

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“This applies not only to the Corona Alert app, but to all apps on those smartphones.”

The ministry said that the problem had been known for a long time and had been pointed out in the app's FAQ section.

With the new version, released on Wednesday, “the problem has been solved,” the spokesperson said.

Users are now instructed upon opening the app to go to settings and activate the “prioritised background activity” option.

Professor Hannes Federrath, President of the German Informatics Society, told Bild that the glitch could be “dangerous to the health” of users. He added that blame ultimately lay with the smartphone manufacturers.

The app, which works through bluetooth, is designed to make it easier to track infections.

If a user has tested positive and has shared this in the app, it reports to other users that they have spent time near an infected person. Then that person can be tested – even without symptoms, and at the expense of health insurance companies.

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