The European Commission rolled out a set of parameters to guide developers building contact tracing and warning apps to be used within the EU. The ‘toolbox’ allows governments in member states to calibrate mobile technology with consumer protection regulations such as GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive.
The guidelines lay down four essential requirements for tracing apps: that they are installed voluntarily, that they are approved by national health authorities, that data is securely encrypted, and that they are discontinued after they fulfil their original purpose. Additionally, the document also demands that deployed apps make no use of location data and that any generated information remains stored in the device.
The EU Commissioner for the digital economy, Margrethe Vestagerer, said that members states now have the guidelines, the tools and the cooperation to develop applications that help control the spread of the coronavirus.
“You don’t have to choose between fighting the virus and protecting privacy,” Vestagerer told Euractiv in a telephone interview. “You can do something that also makes very good sense with privacy and at the same time, get a digital tool that will be very useful.”
The Commissioner’s comments come at a time when her political family at the European Parliament, Renew Europe, is calling for a plenary debate on the use of contact-tracing technology amid the Covid-19 emergency. Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld warned on Twitter that tracking apps raise important ethical concerns: “Even during a crisis, we have to be vigilant and protect our freedoms.”
The EC guidelines recommend an ongoing evaluation period for the duration of the pandemic to help member states assess the effectiveness of the apps at national and cross-border level and facilitate the mapping of the spread of the disease across the bloc.