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Anjum Shabbir
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16th April 2020
Covid-19 Data, Tech & IP Human Rights

Common European Approach for efficient and privacy-aware contact tracing mobile apps to fight COVID-19

Announcement has been made today of the adoption by the Member States, with the support of the European Commission, of a common European approach on how to use mobile applications for efficient contact tracing and warning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This toolbox is part of a common coordinated approach to support the gradual lifting of confinement measures, as set out in a Commission Recommendation last week.

Today’s announcement is the first iteration of a Common EU Toolbox, developed urgently and collaboratively by the e-Health Network with the support of the European Commission. It provides a practical guide for Member States in the implementation of contact tracing and warning apps. Today’s Toolbox sets out essential and practical requirements for efficient tracing apps that must be voluntary; use privacy-friendly technologies and anonymised data, be time-limited; interoperable; accessible; cyber secure and reflect accepted scientific guidance. Manual tracing such as phone interviews for elderly or disabled persons will continue to exist to cover vulnerable persons less likely to have a smartphone. Additional functionalities, in particular information and symptom tracking may be developed in future iterations of the toolbox.

Contact tracing apps are deemed as useful tools to limit the spread of COVID-19, insofar as they can be used to detect infection risks and to support health authorities with contact tracing. Nevertheless, their use requires strong privacy safeguards. In view of this, a Guidance on data protection for such mobile apps was also published today.

By 30 April 2020, public health authorities will assess the effectiveness of the apps at national and cross-border level. Member States should report on their actions by 31 May 2020 and make the measures accessible to other Member States and the Commission for peer review. The Commission will assess the progress made and publish periodic reports starting in June 2020 and throughout the crisis, recommending action or the phasing out of measures that no longer seem necessary.

Read the Toolbox for contract tracing apps (here) and the Guidance on data protection (here).

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