The German government apparently changed direction over the technology it planned to use to trace people infected with Covid-19 (coronavirus), with backing for a joint move by Apple and Google to develop a decentralised system potentially on the cards.

Germany previously backed the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) initiative, which planned to develop smartphone technology that would store user data on a central server, an idea which led to hundreds of scientists and researchers raising concerns over potential government surveillance.

In an effort to ease worries, Germany’s cabinet called for an app which “should be voluntary, comply with the applicable data protection regulations and ensure a high level of IT security”.

Helge Braun, head of the Federal Chancellery and minister for Special Tasks, and Health minister Jens Spahn jointly announced the government will rely on “a decentralised software architecture that uses the programming interfaces of the major providers of mobile operating systems that will be available shortly”, hinting at Apple and Google’s combined plans to develop contact tracing technology.

The officials added the app should allow people to voluntarily provide “pseudonymised data for epidemiological research and quality assurance” to the country’s Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for disease control and prevention.

Meanwhile, Google and Apple announced they will boost privacy measures in the newly-developed technology by encrypting Bluetooth data exchanged between devices. They also reportedly accelerated their schedule, with BBC News stating the pair intended to launch the software to developers on 28 April instead of mid-May.