28 Aug 2020Blog

Koronavilkku is here! 10 questions and answers about the Finnish Covid-19 app

Finland’s official coronavirus tracing app has proven to be one of the most popular mobile apps in Finland: up to one million downloads – the first month’s target – was achieved in less than a day. That is great as we all need to work together: The more people are using it, the better the app helps prevent infection chains.

Here you can find 10 frequently asked questions in English about the Koronavilkku aka “Corona Blinker” app which you can download in app stores and in the koronavilkku.fi/en website.

The Finnish Koronavilkku app is maintained by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Solita was selected as the app’s developer after a bidding process, while the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) and SoteDigi Oy have also been involved in its development. The National Cyber Security Centre of Finland has audited the app with regard to information security.

1. When can the app be downloaded and from where?

You can download the free and safe Koronavilkku app on your smartphone from your application store, such as Google Play or App Store. The app was released on Monday, 31 August 2020. It is available for most Apple phones (operating system iOS 13.5 or newer) and Android phones (operating system Android 6 or newer), such as Samsung and older Huawei devices that use Google Play. For newer Huawei devices, the app can only be downloaded later.

In the first phase, the app will be released in Finnish and in Swedish. Also a version in English will be released soon.

2. Is the app safe? Can children also use it?

The app is safe for both children and adults. It can be used by people of all ages. We recommend that you also download it on your children’s phones so that you are alerted if your children are exposed to the virus. However, we recommend that you show your children how to use the app and that you discuss any exposure warnings together, also in the case you need to seek treatment.

The Koronavilkku app is maintained by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Solita was selected as the app’s developer after a bidding process, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) and SoteDigi Oy have also been involved in its development. The National Cyber Security Centre of Finland has audited the app with regard to information security.

3. How does the Koronavilkku app work?

After you have downloaded the app, it will run in the background automatically and without interfering with any other use of your phone. The operating principle of Koronavilkku is fairly simple: after you have downloaded the app, your phone will record a character sequence regarding any encounters in which you may have been exposed to coronavirus. No personal or geospatial data is saved in the app, only anonymous key codes are saved.

If you fall ill or test positive for coronavirus, you will be given a verification code from healthcare services to anonymously warn other people you have met during the incubation period using your phone. You will also receive a exposure warning if any person you have encountered falls ill. The verification code ensures that Koronavilkku warnings are only based on confirmed infections. The person who sends a warning and people who receive them will not obtain any information about each other’s identity.

4. If I use Koronavilkku, can someone see where I am or who I meet?

No. To protect the privacy of users, phones identify each other using key codes that are changing character sequences, and they will not be merged with any personal or geospatial data in the app. This means that not even the app
developer is able to use the data saved by the app to see who uses the app or who each user has met and where. Key codes will be deleted from devices after three weeks, after the possible infection period has elapsed.

5. How are Google and Apple linked with Finland’s coronavirus app?

Mobile phones use the Exposure Notification (ENS) interface (also known as GAEN) to exchange tracking codes. It is an additional feature in operating systems of mobile phones built together by Google and Apple to help combat coronavirus globally. The interface was installed on mobile phones in conjunction with operating system updates in May (iOS 13.5 update on iPhones and via Google play on Android devices). As a result of the interface, targeted key codes can be saved independent of the app: saving takes place in the background, even if the app shuts down for any reason.

6. Do I need to have Bluetooth always switched on?

How much battery does it consume?The app works when you have downloaded it, Bluetooth is switched on and the battery is charged. This means that you need to keep Bluetooth switched on, but do not worry: as the app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it has a negligible effect on battery life. You can use your phone normally, while helping to prevent any infection chains.

7. In what languages is the app available?

The Koronavilkku app will first be released in Finnish and Swedish. The English version will also be released later during autumn.

8. Will Koronavilkku also work in other countries?

The app mainly produces benefits in Finland, as it only records information about encounters with other Koronavilkku users – we can help prevent infection chains by working together. The app works everywhere, but it does not know where your phone is located. Communication with the background system (warning other users of your infection after testing positive for coronavirus or receiving exposure warnings) has been limited to European countries for reasons of information security.

9. How does the app’s background system work?

The Koronavilkku app is connected to a background healthcare system so that the app can regularly check whether you have met any coronavirus carriers or, in other words, whether a person whom you have met and has tested positive for coronavirus has sent you a warning. The background system is provided by Kela, a wholly Finnish organisation with extensive experience in the maintenance of large and widely used systems. As in all other parts of the app, the background system protects the privacy of its users. No personal data is saved in the background system. What is more, all data saved will be deleted after 21 days. Alongside data protection, special attention has been paid to the load-handling capacity and security of the background system.

In addition to Kela’s background system, a national Koronavilkku user interface has been built for healthcare professionals to create PIN codes. Access to the user interface is only limited to trained professionals.

10. What should I do if the app warns me of a possible exposure to coronavirus?

If you receive a warning of a possible exposure to coronavirus, it means that a person who has been near you for a longer period has tested positive for coronavirus, and you may have been infected. The Koronavilkku app will instruct you to contact healthcare services. Follow the instructions, monitor your condition and avoid seeing other people, just in case you are an asymptomatic carrier.

When you receive a warning of any exposure to coronavirus, you will be given instructions on how to contact healthcare services. The app will not provide any detailed information about the date or location of a possible exposure or about any virus carrier, as this information is not collected for reasons of data protection.

Coronavirus infections are always confirmed through appropriate testing, and Koronavilkku does not send any separate text messages or emails to its users. Any text messages related to Koronavilkku are misleading, and you can regard them as malicious similarly to junk mail.

Naturally, any encounter with a coronavirus carrier does not automatically mean that you will catch the virus. There may also be false alarms, but their frequency will be minimised by adjusting the parameters of the probability of an exposure and the limits set for alarms.

  • More information about the app is available from the THL website, among others.