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Norway suspends virus-tracing app after privacy concerns

Norway's health authorities said on Monday they had suspended an app designed to help trace the spread of the new coronavirus after the national data protection agency said it was too invasive of privacy.

Norway suspends virus-tracing app after privacy concerns
The Smittestopp app has alarmed privacy campaigners. Photo: Mostphotos / Farknot Architect/Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Launched in April, the smartphone app Smittestopp (“Infection stop”) was set up to collect movement data to help authorities trace the spread of COVID-19, and inform users if they had been exposed to someone carrying the novel coronavirus.
   
On Friday, the data agency, Datatilsynet, issued a warning that it would stop the Norwegian Institute of Public Health from handling data collected via Smittestopp.
   
Datatilsynet said the limited spread of coronavirus in Norway, as well the app's limited effectiveness due to the small number of people actually using it, meant the invasion of privacy resulting from its use was disproportionate.
 
 
Camilla Stoltenberg, the public health institute's director, said she did not agree with that assessment, but the institute would now delete all the app's data and suspend its work.
   
Stoltenberg said this weakened Norway's response to the spread of coronavirus. “The pandemic is not over,” she said.
   
 
Some 600,000 of Norway's 5.4 million inhabitants had been using the app.
 
Developed in Norway and downloadable on a voluntary basis, the application used centralised data storage, as is planned in France and the UK.   
 
Norway, where the coronavirus deaths totalled 242 as of last week, is now seeing only a handful of new infection cases a day.

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TAXI

Norway police may charge Uber taxi driver

Police in Oslo are to prosecute their first Uber driver after stopping him over the weekend for carrying paying passengers without a license.

Norway police may charge Uber taxi driver
Uber first launched in Norway at the end of last year. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
The arrest, which followed a warning from police, makes Norway the latest country in Europe to crack down on the controversial taxi app. 
 
The city’s police stopped two cars in the city centre on the weekend, at least one of which was operating as part of the US based Uber taxi app. 
 
“The vehicles have received driving bans under The Professional Transport Act,” Finn Erik Grønli, the head of the Oslo Traffic Police, told Aftenposten. “This is because the drivers did not have permission to drive passengers for remuneration.” 
 
Grønli said that the police were continuing to investigate the case and had yet to decide whether to push for further sanctions. 
 
“The rules on carrying passengers for remuneration apply to everyone,” he said. “We do not distinguish between the traditional pirate taxi business and Uber when it comes to having the necessary permits. The pirate taxi business is an old issue that we are cracking down on, and Uber is just a new operator in that market.” 
 
Daniel Bryne, Uber’s press officer told Aftenposten that the company believed that Uber drivers, which are vetted by the company and operate under strict guidelines, should not be treated under the law as pirate taxi operators. 
 
“We are surprised at the police’s actions, and are standing firmly behind the driver,” he said. “We believe that this is contrary to Norwegian case law, which was confirmed in the judgment in the Haxi case in Stavanger in June.” 
 
Uber is facing continuing crack downs from governments across Europe, with France’s constitutional court last month confirming a ban on the company’s UberPop service, as two of its French executives face criminal prosecution for operating an illegal taxi service. 
 
The company faces a criminal investigation in The Netherlands, while in London its drivers face onerous new regulations. 
 
Uber was banned in Spain in December, and has been banned twice in Germany.