Entrance of a Berlin Ikea branch: Currently, you should only come with an FFP mask, negative quick test and Luca app
Photo: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images
For weeks there has been a heated argument on the net about Luca, a new app for digitally tracking contacts.
Some consider the project, whose public face is rapper Smudo from the Fantastischen Vier, to be a savior in the fight against Corona.
With this tool, it is assumed, events and the opening of shops and restaurants are within reach.
Others consider the app unsuitable for fighting pandemics at best, dangerous at worst.
In the deepest corona fatigue, the hopes that are on the program are now as high as they were before the introduction of the corona warning app.
And Luca nourishes this hope of normalcy and sociability after months of isolation with the advertising slogan »Experience life together«.
Proponents hope that Luca, thanks to connections to the local health authorities, will accelerate contact tracing by abolishing or at least reducing the number of papers in shops and restaurants, among other things.
On Tuesday evening, Luca said that his system would be introduced in around 300 health offices by the beginning of May, the operators speak of an "important step towards digitization" of the offices.
Others, including artists, but also companies, more pragmatically, consider Luca to be the best chance that events will soon take place again in times of Corona.
IT pros have grave concerns
At the same time, however, there are also massive reservations about Luca, especially among IT security experts.
If you look around on Twitter under the hashtag #LucaApp, you will encounter widespread criticism that the app and the system around it are prone to errors and can be outwitted.
Many little stories are making the rounds, for example from Jan Böhmermann, who was able to check in from a distance at night at the Osnabrück Zoo, from users who could easily register with fake numbers, from a virtual party with supposedly 600,000 guests or from a user who reported being registered as present in a department store for a whole night - because no checkout took place.
The Luca operators react calmly to such incidents: Of course the app could be »improperly used«, they said about Böhmermann zoo visits, but also »masks can be worn correctly or incorrectly«.
However, such behavior does not help "us as a society" out of the pandemic; they rely on a responsible use of the aids.
One of the more fundamental criticisms of the Luca system is that so far only part of the code is available for verification by third parties, but also that Luca, in contrast to the Corona warning app, relies on central data management.
As a result, the start-up behind it has a comparatively large amount of responsibility.
The metadata that Luca generates would be of great interest to some businessmen, criminals, prosecutors or secret services.
Lucas also stirs concerns about the Corona state ordinances of individual federal states within a few weeks.
Numerous federal states have decided to purchase annual licenses for the app - without an invitation to tender - with almost 20 million euros flowing in so far.
And that, according to the critics, although there are apparently still many unanswered questions about the app.
Marketing stroke of genius or important tool?
A kind of war of faith is already brewing around the app, while it is now approaching the high usage level with more than 3.3 million downloads: is Luca above all a marketing stroke of genius or is it really a crucial tool for the coming months?
The data protection expert Theresa Stadler, who is one of the Luca critics, said on Tuesday in the podcast "She likes Tech" that she found it worrying that the debate about Luca was no longer a technical dispute, but in the direction of a "PR battle" threatening to drift away.
In the meantime, Luca is slowly becoming popular with the general public.
A few weeks ago only a few health authorities worked with Lucas System, and test locations such as Sylt, Föhr and Amrum were far away for many people.
Elsewhere, using the app hardly made sense, especially since restaurant openings in the third wave are not really popular either.
But now Luca appears in many a state ordinance.
In addition, popular retail companies such as Ikea and Thalia are now announcing that you can or should use Luca when visiting their stores.
Or even has to?
Here we answer the most important questions about the current situation:
Do you need Luca to go shopping now?
Some well-known retail chains such as Ikea, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, Thalia and Apollo are already using Luca - partly nationwide, partly at some locations.
The degree to which people insist on using the app varies.
On the websites of the
Berlin Ikea branches,
for example, it is explicitly stated that a negative corona quick test result and an FFP2 mask will be required for a visit to a furniture store in the future, as will Luca.
In response to a request from SPIEGEL, Ikea confirms that they are serious about Luca: "At the locations where we have implemented the Luca app, employees check before entering the store whether the app, and thus contact tracking, is activated and guaranteed." writes the furniture chain and refers to local ordinances and resolutions that would have led to Luca being deployed in Rostock, for example.
Ikea describes the checks at the entrance in such a way that customers should show their employees a confirmation of their check-in via Luca.
The company does not expect longer waiting times at the entrance.
Ikea wants its employees to inform customers who leave the furniture store, but also through »clearly visible communication on displays, posters, etc.« to check out again.
It all sounds as if there is no alternative to Luca.
The company also writes to SPIEGEL: "Should customers not be able to enter their contact data digitally via the Luca app, we offer alternative registration options in accordance with local requirements, such as filling out a contact sheet on site."
, Luca is more of an option than a default.
"We enable our customers to use the app," says company boss Jörg Ehmer to SPIEGEL.
“At the same time, there is no obligation to do so.
In cases in which we are required to record contact data in the region, we also offer a different method - for people who do not want to use a digital device, we have established a paper-based process. «Apollo does not want to carry out checks on Luca.
is said of
the bookstore chain
that they rely on a "voluntary" check-in via Luca.
At the same time, the company points out that it has to contact the local health authorities to clarify whether the Luca can be used on site or not.
“Sometimes the approval is then granted without any problems,” says Thalia, “in other cases the health authorities are technically not yet able to use the app data.
We advocate ending this madness of effort for authorities and companies and establishing the Luca app as a nationwide standard. "
Thalia emphasizes that the data for contact tracking beyond Luca would also be collected when making online appointments or directly in the bookstore using a form.
Check-ins via Luca would be shown to employees on the customers' smartphones.
Will other chains follow suit?
It can be assumed that some companies and retailers will follow the example of the large companies, although North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the most populous federal state Luca has so far not given a special position.
Luca is interesting for retailers because it is already the most widespread check-in app at the moment, so that the likelihood of scaring off customers by using Luca is reduced.
With every facility that relies on Luca, the likelihood increases that others will also switch to Luca, although there are dozens of other check-in apps nationwide.
Basically - depending on the requirements in the state - shops could of course also allow check-ins with several apps.
The Corona warning app should also have a check-in function for events in April.
Will you soon be getting nowhere without Luca?
From an entrepreneurial perspective, companies should have no interest in excluding customers just because they do not want to use certain software.
At the same time, some politicians are pushing for Lucas to be deeply anchored in public life.
In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, Luca is to be used not only in shops and restaurants but also in churches and mosques, at party events, as well as at weddings and funerals and even private gatherings for documenting and following up contacts.
Such requirements should actually make it more difficult for Luca refusers to participate in daily life, even if only for a few months.
Anne Roth, network policy adviser for the left parliamentary group in the Bundestag, criticized Luca's work in a Berlin branch of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof on Friday.
"At first it was said that such apps had to be absolutely voluntary," wrote Roth on Twitter.
"The federal states - and here Berlin - absolutely have to regulate that the refusal to use Luca must not lead to one being excluded from something."
Does the end of Corona also mean the end of Luca?
As far as Luca's future is concerned,
: "Of course, we have no plans to continue using the Luca app beyond its current and pandemic-related purpose."
boss Ehmer, on the other hand, says that if there is a need on the part of customers to want to use such a service even after the pandemic, then something like this is “quite conceivable”.
However, it is believed that »the development of such apps will progress and that there is still significant room for improvement«: »Whether and, if so, which application will prevail has yet to be seen.«
it is said that after the pandemic a long-term assignment of Luca will be decided "within the framework of the legal possibilities and the capabilities of Luca": "After the crisis, as is well known, before the crisis."
Many critics of the app are worried that Luca could remain the dominant digital infrastructure even after the pandemic.
On Luca's website, under the item “Possible extensions”, it is stated that “optional” also “registration forms, negative test results, tickets and other information” could be integrated into the app.
It all sounds as if the makers of Luca wanted to establish an IT system that could be used beyond pure contact tracking during the pandemic.
Compared to other systems, this would be in a very advantageous market position from the outset thanks to the support from politics.
What data does Luca collect?
Unlike the Corona warning app, Luca collects personal data.
Luca requires registration with the telephone number when setting up, and contact details such as name and address are requested (in principle, fantasy entries are also possible here).
If you want, you can also enter an email address.
The operators of shops do not have access to the data via QR code after the check-in, it is encrypted.
According to their own information, the Luca operators cannot see them either.
The responsible health department, in turn, could access the data of visitors to a shop if a Luca user who tested positive shares his so-called visit history from the past 14 days and that shop appears in it.
The health department could then digitally call up the contact data recorded by Luca at that location and at the time in question, but it also needs permission from the operator.
Can you actually use Luca without an app?
Yes, Luca can alternatively be used via a web app.
In principle, there are also Luca key rings in the event that you do not have a suitable mobile phone or do not want to use it.
Such trailers are currently being distributed free of charge in Lübeck, for example.
According to Luca, it is also possible to feed your data into the Luca system using a contact form, for example via a device that a shopkeeper could provide.
Does Luca help fight the pandemic?
This question is one of the biggest controversial questions about the app.
Various factors will be decisive for this: It starts with the question of how well the Luca system works in a really wide range of practical applications and extends to the question of whether the health authorities are even able to make sense of the large amount of data provided by the app and evaluate them promptly.
In addition, Luca relies on voluntariness in one crucial point.
Because in order for the warning concept to work, people infected with corona must provide the health department with their visit history.
Even in the Corona warning app, however, where positive test results can be stored anonymously, only some of those who tested positive enter their results - which means that in many cases people are not warned, although according to the logic of the system they have a Should get warning.