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EU calls for pan-European Covid-19 tracking app

Written by Wed 8 Apr 2020

Unified approach necessary to protect citizens data, says EU’s data protection chief 

A pan-EU coronavirus health tracking app is needed to protect the privacy of the region’s citizens, Europe’s data protection tsar has said.

Several European governments have launched Covid-19 tracking applications to help inform social distancing policies and the eventual lifting of lockdown measures.

But the European Data Protection Supervisor warned unilateral efforts will be less safe and effective compared to a joined-up approach.

He said a pan-European approach would ensure health and location data is anonymised correctly and processed in a way that satisfies the principles of “privacy by design”, as laid out in Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“The EDPS is aware that a number of EU Member States have or are in the process of developing mobile applications that use different approaches to protect public health, involving the processing of personal data in different ways,” said Wojciech Wiewiorowski said in a letter to EU governments.

“The use of temporary broadcast identifiers and Bluetooth technology for contact tracing seems to be a useful path to achieve privacy and personal data protection effectively.”

“Given these divergences, the European Data Protection Supervisor calls for a pan-European model ‘Covid-19 mobile application’, coordinated at EU level. Ideally, coordination with the World Health Organisation should also take place, to ensure data protection by design globally from the start.”

Data protection and ethics experts have called for more scrutiny on Covid-19 tracking apps as the number of them explodes around the world. Campaigners warn untrammelled tracking could equip Governments with dangerous surveillance powers and say app design and deployment needs to be monitored carefully.

Last week, the UK’s Information Commissioners Office sanctioned the use of anonymised mobile phone location data to help stem the spread of Covid-19. In Europe, telcos Vodafone, A1 Telekom Austria, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor and Telia are already sharing mobile phone location data with the EU.



Written by Wed 8 Apr 2020


Coronavirus EU healthcare tracking
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