Immuni: Here’s what you need to know about using Italy’s contact-tracing app

The Italian government has begun a media campaign encouraging people to download the country's Covid-19 track and trace app as infection rate rises again. But does it work, and are there privacy risks? Here's what you need to know.

Immuni: Here's what you need to know about using Italy's contact-tracing app
Are you using Italy's contact-tracing app yet? Photo: AFP

More than seven million people in Italy have now downloaded the Immuni app since it was launched in June, as local media reports a spike in downloads last weekend.

With new cases of coronavirus rising again in Italy, the government says more people need to use Immuni if the country is to avoid a second wave of contagion, and the increased restrictions that would come with it.

READ ALSO: What will change in Italy’s October emergency decree?

The Italian government on Monday launched an awareness campaign aimed at encouraging people to use the app, which it says is “a valid contribution to the fight against Covid-19: free and totally anonymous, it helps to break the chain of contagion, alerting the user of risk of contact with positive cases.”

As health authorities have pointed out, the more people download the contact-tracing app, the better it will become at notifying users of whether they may have been in contact with an infected person.

However, many in Italy have so far been resistant to downloading the app, citing concerns about privacy or saying it simply doesn't work properly.

Coverage of the app is higher in some Italian regions than others, with notably fewer downloads in the south overall, according to the app's creators.

So what do you need to know before you decide whether to download it? Here's a closer look.

How does it work?

The app works using bluetooth, and communicates with oher devices which also have the app installed. 

If two smartphones with the app installed are less than one metre apart, they exchange automatically generated codes which make it possible to trace previous contacts in case one of the users is diagnosed with the virus.

Immuni is free and downloading it is of course voluntary.

Should I be concerned about privacy?

The app doesn't require any personal data and does not connect with other apps on your phone.

After installation, the app asks for your location. After that, “the system will function automatically”, according the app's official website.

When local health authorities register a new case of coronavirus, they can add a code into the system, with the consent of the patient.

READ ALSO: How to get a coronavirus test in Italy

Photo: AFP

The system then sends notification to users who have been in close contact with the positive case.

The codes are anonymous and don’t contain personal information about the users, health authorities said.

“It is an innovative, technological support to the initiatives the government has already put into place to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” said a joint statement by the ministries of health and of innovation when the app launched in June.

“It was developed in compliance with Italian and European legislation to protect privacy.”

According to the app's creators, data collected will be stored on the device itself, and not transmitted to a central server.

The system will not trace movements and data can only be shared with the user’s permission. Any data collected and shared with the central server will be deleted by December 31st, 2020.

“Immuni's sole purpose is to help cope with the epidemic. The project is not for profit, and in no case will your data be sold or used for any commercial purpose, including profiling for advertising purposes,” the official website states.

What happens if I get a notification?

An exposure risk notification looks like a little red dot appearing at the top of your screen, which reads: “Risk of exposure detected. Find out what to do”.

Immuni has two suggestions: immediately notify your doctor and in the meantime isolate yourself until you can get tested, or alternatively, ignore the message  – “but we strongly advise you not to do this”, it says.

According to one report from a user who got a positive notification from the app, after notifying their doctor they were tested a few hours later.

“By being alerted early, users can contact their general practitioner and, therefore, lower the risk of serious consequences,” the app's website states.

One complaint users have however is that the app can take a long time to notify them of potential contact with an infected person. In the case described above, they got the notification 15 days later,

How do I use Immuni?

You can download the app here.

You do not need to be an Italian resident: authorities recommend that you download and use it whenever you're in Italy, whether you live here or are just visiting.

The app is currently available in English, Italian, German, French, and Spanish according to the website's FAQ.

“The app uses the same language that’s set on  the user's smartphone, where available,” it says.

The app only works within Italy.

You can find further details, in Italian or English, at


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REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy

The northern cities of Milan and Turin were named Italy's 'smog capitals' in a new pollution report on Monday which urged the government to take action over poor air quality.

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy
Photo: Pixabay

Smog and pollution are choking Italian cities year-round and many towns are exceeding limits on fine particles and other pollution, according to another report from Italian environmental watchdog Legambiente.

The Mal’aria di città (Air pollution in the city) report for 2023, unveiled on Monday, was the latest to warn about the risks to health posed by pollution in many parts of the country.

It found that 25 of 95 cities monitored had violated clean air ordinances by exceeding daily fine particle (PM10) emission limits, which are currently set at no more than 35 days a year with a daily average of over 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

Turin was ranked as the worst offender, exceeding this level on 90 days, closely followed by Milan (84), Asti (79), Modena (75), and Padua and Venice at 70.

These were followed by Cremona, Treviso, Mantua and Rovigo, all of which exceeded limits to a lesser degree.

All of the most polluted cities were in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, with most within the north-western ‘industrial triangle’.

Some southern cities featured nearer the bottom of the ranking, with Andria (Puglia) and Ragusa (Sicily) exceeding limits on several days, as well as Rome, which overshot the permitted level for one day.

(Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The average annual rate of PM10 emissions nationwide dropped slightly, by two percent year-on-year, the report found.

“This, however, is not enough to guarantee the health of citizens,” said Stefano Ciafani, president of Legambiente.

He pointed out that the situation looked even worse if air quality in Italian cities were measured against tighter limits under the new European Directive on air quality, in force from 2030, which lowers the PM10 threshold from 35 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“Only 23 out of 96 cities (24 percent) would be under these limits,” Ciafani said, while 84 percent would exceed the threshold for PM2.5 and 61 percent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union over air quality, and has “persistently and systematically” breached EU recommended limits, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2020.

The north of Italy has long been ranked among the worst areas in Europe for polluted air according to data from the European Environment Agency.

“Air pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also a health problem of great importance,” said Ciafani. “In Europe, it’s the main cause of premature death due to environmental factors.”

“Italy has more than 52,000 deaths per year caused by PM2.5 emissions, equal to a fifth of those recorded throughout the continent,” he said.

The main causes of air pollution in Italian cities are reported to be industry, inefficient domestic heating systems, agricultural practices and, most of all, heavy traffic.

In Italy, cars continue to be by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of journeys overall are made by car, Legambiante wrote, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy’s towns and cities.

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Legambiente said “drastic” measures were required to tackle the problem, including funds for more efficient heating systems in homes and public buildings and a major increase in public transport provision.

The group said Italy must “quadruple the availability of public transit, promoting integrated season tickets as done by Germany in 2022”, triple the number of electric buses, create zero-emission zones in town centres, and “create another 16,000 kilometres of cycle paths”.

It also praised local authorities choosing to bring in 30 km/h speed limits in city centres. Councils in Bologna, Turin, Milan and Cesena have all said they plan to implement these limits, following the lead of European cities including Paris and Madrid, despite fierce criticism from Italian transport minister Matteo Salvini.

Legambiente published a petition urging the government to make clean air and more livable cities a priority, saying Italy should follow Paris in attempting to create ’15-minute cities’, in which everyone lives within a quarter of an hour’s walk of vital amenities such as shops and schools and possibly also workplaces.