Police Under Investigation For Using Covid-Tracking Data To Hunt Down Witness

by : Eve Wagstaff on :
Police Under Investigation For Using Covid-Tracking Data To Hunt Down WitnessAlamy

German police have come under fire for using data from the country’s coronavirus tracing app to assist with a criminal investigation.

The incident began when a man fell over in the south-western city of Mainz, Germany, on November 29, 2021. Despite being rushed to hospital, the victim died from his injuries a few days later.


Detectives looking for witnesses of the fall, which occurred outside a restaurant, used data from an app to locate people who had been in the area at the same time.

The app in question, Luca, is used by the public to track what hospitality venues they have been to in order to understand when they may have been exposed to coronavirus.

German police have come under fire (PA Images)PA Images

In addition to the establishments the user has been to, it also logs the length of time spent at a property along with the person’s full name, address and telephone number. All of which are subject to Germany’s very strict data protection laws.


However, police successfully appealed to the civic health authorities to get hold of information harvested from the app, and tracked down 21 witnesses who were at the scene to help with their enquiries.

The Luca app, which has more than 40 million people signed up, promises ‘encrypted, secure and responsible data transmission’.

News of the incident prompted an outcry from the public, resulting in prosecutors apologising to those who had their information shared and the local data protection authority opening an inquiry into the matter. Blasting the data breach, the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, said in a statement: ‘We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections.’

Luca app in Germany (Alamy)Alamy

It added that it had received regular requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected, DW reports.


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The outcome of the enquiry is not yet known but all of Germany’s businesses operate under the same General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws that the rest of the EU does.

However, a reason such as cooperating with a police investigation could potentially fall under the exception of sharing data on a ‘lawful basis’.

German politician Konstantin von Notz commented on the matter, stating: ‘We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear.’


If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want up to date advice, visit the Gov.uk help page here. If you need medical help call NHS 111 or visit online

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Topics: News, App, Coronavirus, Data, Germany, Now, Police


  1. Metro

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