Contact Tracing remains irrelevant

Never start from software…

Contact Tracing remains irrelevant /img/immuni-banner.jpg
<a href="" target="_blank">The banner on the Immuni website</a>


Immuni is the official COVID-19 contact tracing app promoted by the italian government. It should have greatly helped the management of the pandemic because, in and by itself, it is:

  • much faster and more precise than relying on people’s memory to remember who may have infected whom
  • voluntary: there is no obligation to download and use it
  • privacy-friendly: this may be debated, but there is very little doubt that Immuni is way, way, way less invasive than hundreds of other apps many millions of Italians use every day

In spite of all this, I have just come across the last of a long series of article on why Immuni has become half problematic, all irrelevant

As of last week, says that article, about 18% of italian smartphone owners 14 and 75 years old had installed Immuni. Installing however, does not mean “actually using as intended”, and the fact that there has been, until now, very little transparency on this makes it harder to convince more people.

The real problem that magnifies all the others, however, is another. Installing Immuni and being 100% committed to use it as intended does not mean at all that you will be able to do so.

All is certain for Immuni users is that if they get a notification that they got too close to someone then tested positiv, they should immediately “contact their family doctor, and voluntarily self-quarantine”.

Immuni users who are tested positive, instead, should immediately get, from a public healthcare servant, the authorization codes necessary to transmit the anonymous notifications mentioned above.

In practice: no guarantees

The reason why Immuni has become irrelevant is that, as many said last spring, including me, there is no guarantee of assistance, and no public obligation behind Immuni. None at all.

People who receive notifications have no guarantee to be tested and if necessary cured, within e.g. one or two days. Without such guarantees, mass adoption of automatic, unverifiable contact tracing risks to replace top-down lockdowns with thousands of individual self-imposed ones.

At the other end, positive people who ask the authorization codes, to inform others before it is too late, are too often told any combination of:

  • I have no idea how to do what you ask, my managers told me nothing
  • This region officially decided to not support Immuni, because its way of contact tracing is incompatible with our existing, much better tested and integrated procedures for contact tracing

All in all, Immuni seems (and it is a shame) another example of the Soviet-like solutionism of yore that I reported two days ago.