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Article Finland: Institute for Health and Welfare Launches COVID-19 Tracing App

(Sept. 9, 2020) On August 31, 2020, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos, THL) launched a contact tracing app called Koronavilkuksi (“Corona Indicator”).

The official launch came several weeks after a 12-day pilot program involving a few dozen persons in the Helsinki area concluded on August 16, 2020. The goal of the app is to “increase the efficiency in breaking the chains of transmission” for the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic by tracking potentially exposed persons who do not know each other. The use of the app remains voluntary and is intended to be a supplement to legally mandated measures, such as quarantine.

To allow for the development of the app, the Finnish Parliament made a temporary amendment to the Finnish Law on Contagious Diseases (Lagen om smittsamma sjukdomar) on June 26, 2020, which provided that the information collected may be used only to track COVID-19 transmission and stored for only as long as absolutely necessary. (43c and 43e § Law on Contagious Diseases.) The only information that may be collected is

1) the user’s pseudonymized identification,

2) pseudonymized identification of other users that the user has met with and the necessary related information regarding the duration and time of the meeting and the strength of the Bluetooth signal from the mobile unit in question,

3) pseudonymized identification of users who have reported themselves as infected,

4) information received by the user regarding possible exposure,

5) [the user’s] name, telephone number, home municipality and, as needed, temporary residence, as well as information provided by the user as part of a request for contact as specified in 43 e § 1 mom. (43 c §.)

The information collected must be erased within 21 days. (43 c §.)

The app will notify persons who have been within 2 meters (about 6 feet) of an infected person for more than 10 minutes. The app uses Bluetooth technology to identify devices that have been in close proximity to each other by sending a random code between the two devices and storing the data on them. Users who become infected with COVID-19 will receive a code from the health services that will unlock the app and send a warning message to other users that have been in close proximity to the infected individual.

On August 26, 2020, the THL published the open source code for the app to facilitate technical evaluation of the app.

As reported by the THL, only Finnish and Swedish versions of the app are currently available, with an English version expected later this year. However, reviews in the Google Play Store indicate that a Swedish version of the app is not available and that changing the language of the Finnish app is not possible.

As of September 1, 2020, over one million persons (about one-fifth of the population) had reportedly downloaded the app.

The use of personal data from the COVID-19 app is being supervised by the Data Protection Ombudsman. In addition, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health exercises supervisory authority over the information security in the information system that supports the app. (43 h § (9.7.2020/582).)

The amendment entered into force on Aug. 31, 2020, and remains in force until March 31, 2021, but may be extended. (43 h §.)

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Chicago citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Finland: Institute for Health and Welfare Launches COVID-19 Tracing App. 2020. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-09/finland-institute-for-health-and-welfare-launches-covid-19-tracing-app/.

APA citation style:

Hofverberg, E. (2020) Finland: Institute for Health and Welfare Launches COVID-19 Tracing App. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-09/finland-institute-for-health-and-welfare-launches-covid-19-tracing-app/.

MLA citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Finland: Institute for Health and Welfare Launches COVID-19 Tracing App. 2020. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-09/finland-institute-for-health-and-welfare-launches-covid-19-tracing-app/>.