How Radar COVID works, the official contact tracing app in Spain

After a trial period developed on the island of La Gomera, the official application for the COVID-19 contact trail is now available in Spain, both for iOS and Android. We explain how it works and why you should install it on your device.

What is contact tracing

By now practically everyone knows about COVID-19, we know that it is a disease that in many situations does not cause any symptoms, but in others it can be fatal for those who contract it. Those days when COVID-19 deaths were counted by the hundreds a day are still (or should be) in the memory of most. With such a treacherous virus It is essential to know the serious cases to treat them, but also the possible asymptomatic cases, to prevent its spread.

This is why contact tracing is so important. When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, even if they do not have any symptoms or they are mild, all possible contacts that you may have had in recent days are searched, so that they can be tested and if they are positive, they are isolated so that they do not spread the disease. This is a “manual” job that requires a lot of time and resources, and this application will help considerably.

How COVID Radar works

For weeks our mobile phones, whether Android or iPhone, have been prepared to use an application like Radar COVID. Apple and Google have worked together to prepare their mobile devices and to interact with each other, so that 99% of smartphones sold worldwide have become a tool that will help in the fight against the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus. For this, all we have to do is:

  • Have our iPhone updated to iOS 13.5 or higher
  • For Android phones, have the Google Play app updated to the latest version available (works from Android 6 onwards).
  • Download the Radar COVID app for iOS (link) and Android (link)

Once the application is installed, we execute it and we must activate the “Radar COVID” button so that it goes from inactive to active, and the application will take care of doing everything, we will not have to worry about anything else. The application will run continuously in the background, without us noticing, capturing all the information necessary to notify us in case we have a contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

To detect these contacts, the application uses the Bluetooth of our devices. Throughout the day, with our smartphone in your pocket, backpack or hand, the application will save all contacts with whom we have been for more than 15 minutes and within a distance of less than two meters. How do you store them? Through a random identifier that the app generates (and that changes over time). In this way at the end of the day we will have a huge list of numbers stored on our iPhone that will be kept for 14 days.

If during those 14 days any of the people with whom we have been in contact is diagnosed with COVID-19, You must register it in the app using a code that will be given when diagnosing it. Automatically all the telephones of the people with whom they have been in contact (within two meters and for more than 15 minutes) will notify their owners of this positive so that they can call the health services and communicate that they have been in contact with an infected person, making the most appropriate decision in each case.

Privacy is guaranteed

Many users are reluctant to install the Radar COVID app for fear of being spied on. If there are people who defend that the earth is flat, how can there not be someone who says that this application is a tool of the government to spy on us. The truth is that all these fears are ridiculous, and the application guarantees the privacy of the users as much as possible:

  • Does the app track my location? No, the application never tracks your location, in fact it doesn’t even have access to your phone’s GPS. There is no way the app can know where you are at any time.
  • Does the application know my identity? No, Radar COVID does not know the identity of the users of the application. Our identity is only in that random number that is generated in the application and that cannot be associated in any way with your name, or with your Apple or Google account.
  • Can anyone access the COVID Radar data? No, the data is stored on your smartphone, it is not uploaded to any server. This is what is called the “decentralized model”.
  • Can they force us to install the app or install it without our consent? They cannot force us, or install it without our permission. Apple and Google have prepared our smartphones to work the app, but only we can install it on our devices.

Please install the application

It is a really useful application, which can help us all end this pandemic for which so many people are dying, and for which many people are having a very bad time without work, or with their business very damaged. But for it to be useful it is necessary that we download it and activate it on our smartphone, if not, it will be of no use. Perhaps you will not care to contract the disease (it should not) but surely you have a family member who is included among the people at risk, or a friend, or neighbor. Do you want to be responsible for that person getting the disease? Well, if you do not know if you have COVID-19, it may be you who infects it.

When will it start to work in my autonomous community?

Although the application is already available and can be downloaded, and it works, there is a fundamental step missing to make it useful: The Autonomous Communities have to establish how they will give us that code that we will have to enter in case we are positive. Right now they tell you that you are positive, and you leave with a medical report, but in order to register your positive in the application you need a code that only health authorities can give you, to prevent someone from entering false information. It is also necessary to indicate the telephone number to call when the notification arrives. Once we have that we can have a 100% functional application.

When will they start giving us those codes? Well unfortunately for most it may not be until mid-September
. The government of Spain has said that some communities may request it urgently before that date, but we do not yet have a calendar indicating when we can use the app in each place in Spain. But you can install the app on your iPhone and collect data.

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