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German police face backlash for using Covid surveillance to track witnesses to a death

It was promised that Covid surveillance would only be used for contact tracing.

German police have faced backlash after it was revealed they used a Covid-tracking app to track possible witnesses to a man’s death, adding to fears that covid tacking was going to lead to an increase in the surveillance state.

The police used Luca, which records the time spent in a restaurant, or other establishments, to track the possible spread of the coronavirus.

The app also records the full name, phone number, and address of the user. The data collected by the app is supposed to be subject to Germany’s data protection laws.

In November 2021, a man fell and died while leaving a restaurant in Mainz. Police used Luca to track possible witnesses, by successfully appealing to the municipal health authorities to allow access to the data of about 21 people who were at the restaurant at around the same time as the customer who died.

After the backlash, the prosecutors involved in the case apologized to the people whose data was accessed. The local data protection authority has launched an inquiry into the issue.

The developer of the app said: “We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections. They added that they have rejected multiple requests for data from authorities.

Konstantin von Notz, of the Greens, warned that abusing the app will harm public trust.

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

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