On Monday, April 6th the European Data Protection Supervisor has called for an EU-wide coronavirus tracking app to be created, instead of every country making its own individually.
Wojciech Wiewiórowski, stated that “The European Data Protection Supervisor, as a data protection authority and as a EU institution, is fully committed co-operate with other European Institutions to put in place as soon as possible efficient measures to fight this existential threat to Europeans, to our economy and to our way of life.”
According to Mr. Wiewiórowski, “the General Data Protection Regulation, allowed the processing of sensitive private information when it was in the interest of public health.”
After this statement he also added “big data means big responsibility”, meaning that participating organizations must know what they are doing and know that they are responsible for the results of their activity.
Therefore, the EDPS ensures the public that they are going to make sure that
“any measures taken at European or national level will be:
– Temporary – they are not here to stay after the crisis.
– Their purposes are limited – we know what we are doing.
– Access to the data is limited – we know who is doing what.
– We know what we will do both with results of our operations and with raw data used in the process – we know the way back to normality.”
The GDPR also permits processing of sensitive data when it is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health.
A number of EU member states have already started developing mobile applications that use different approaches to track identified coronavirus cases.
The EDPS currently considers using Bluetooth for contact tracing to be a “viable path”.
The main objective would be the development of a single coronavirus tracking app, coordinated at a European level. The process would ideally involve the World Health Organization as well to “ensure data protection by design globally from the start”.
He reminds us that the crisis will not be over in a few weeks. It will probably take months to overcome it and years to recover afterwards. This solution is meant to connect citizens at a Europe-wide level to be able to solve issues we wouldn’t be able to handle with national tools only.