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The European Commission States Contact Tracing Will Have a Role of Lifting the Covid-19 EU Lockdown

The European Commission has stated that contact tracing will help to get rid of the Covid-19 quarantine restrictions / lockdown.
Zahrah A
16 April 2020

The European Commission has set a plan that lifts the Covid-19 restrictions. This includes a role for a digital tool which the EU calls "a robust system of reporting and contact tracing". It is emphasised that these digital tools must "fully respect data privacy".

Just last week, the Commission had considered a common approach to data and apps for stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. They emphasised the need to make sure that the public's rights aren't stripped from them.

Now, we have measures in order to start relieving the EU from the Covid-19 restrictions. The EC president, Ursula von der Leyen, commented on a full plan, They said that the European Commission needs "Responsible planning on the ground". As well as this, they need to balance the interests "of protection of public health with those of the functioning of our societies, needs a solid foundation". The European Commission has created some guidelines, criteria, and measures that provide a basis for thoughtful action.

Data gathering and sharing by pubic health authorities are one of the essential parts of the plan for removing certain restrictions. Anonymous data that comes from commercial sources, like social media platforms, is seen as a potential aid in this plan.

It was written that "Social media and mobile network operators can offer a wealth of data on mobility, social interactions, as well as voluntary reports of mild disease cases (e.g. via participatory surveillance) and/or indirect early signals of disease spread (e.g. searches/posts on unusual symptoms)".

european commission

This data, if it were to be pooled and used anonymously in compliance with the EU data protection and privacy laws, it could contribute to improving the forecasting for the pandemic in the EU.

The European Commission has already been leaning on Telecommunications to hand over blurred metadata for Covis-19 modelling. The EC wants this to be done by the EU's Joint Research Center. It wrote to 19 mobile operators in the last week to formalize their request. They're ain is to have the data exchange system operational ASAP.

Additionally, another focus point is steps to reopen the EU's internal and external boarders. Hopefully, this step can come into view if the coronavirus restrictions gradually lift.

The European Commission specifically writes for contact tracing apps

They said that these kind of mobile apps that warn users of an increased risk of Covid-19. are "particularly relevant in the phase of lifting containment measures".

As well as this, they said that the use of these mobile apps should be voluntary - based on the users' consent. The apps should fully respect the European privacy and personal data protection rules. When these tracing apps are in use, users should be in control of their data. The tracing of close proximity between mobile devices should only be allowed on an anonymous and aggregated basis. For example, the names of a possibly infected person should not be disclosed to other users.

It is also said that these mobile tracing and warning applications should be "subject to demanding transparency requirements". Additionally, these apps will be deactivated as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is overcome - any remaining data will be erased.

Similarly, Apple and Google have teamed up in order to implement contact-tracing onto their smartphones and OSs (in later stages).

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