German Police Criticized Over COVID-19 Tracing App Misuse

Police authorities in Germany faced increasing criticism on Tuesday over their misuse of a COVID-19 contact tracing app to investigate a case, putting data protection advocates up in arms and politicians warning that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

According to media reports, police and prosecutors in Mainz city had successfully petitioned local authorities to release data from the Luca app, which logs how long people stayed at an establishment, to track down witnesses of an incident concerning a man who died from falling after leaving a restaurant.

Based on the data acquired from the app, the authorities later reached out to 21 potential witnesses.

The app developers, culture4life, have sharply criticized the actions of the Mainz police.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” culture4life said in a statement.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior member of the Greens, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust and hamper efforts to stem rising COVID-19 cases.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19, to disappear,” Notz said.

Meanwhile, public prosecutors in Mainz said they’ve launched an inquiry and are ensuring “that the relevant data will not be used further.”

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