Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and five other telecoms providers have agreed to share mobile phone location data with the European Commission to track the spread of the coronavirus, lobbying group GSMA announced.
The companies, including Telefonica, Telecom Italia , Telenor, Telia and A1 Telekom Austria met with EU industry chief Thierry Breton on Monday.
Worries about governments’ use of technology to monitor those in quarantine and track infections have intensified in recent weeks over possible privacy violations, with some raising the spectre of state surveillance.
The Commission will use anonymised data to protect privacy and aggregate mobile phone location data to coordinate measures tracking the spread of the virus, an EU official said.
To further assuage privacy concerns, the data will be deleted once the crisis is over, the official said, adding that the EU plan is not about centralising mobile data nor about policing people.
While anonymised data falls outside the scope of EU data protection laws, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said the project does not breach privacy rules as long as there are safeguards.
Countries from Singapore to Taiwan and Israel are using various methods such as contact-tracing smartphone apps, a mobile phone-based “electronic fence”, satellite-based phone tracking and location-tracking wristbands to fight the spread of the virus.
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