The European Commission has published guidance on the development of new apps that support the fight against coronavirus in relation to data protection. The development of such apps and their take up by citizens can have a significant impact on the treatment of the virus and can play an important role in the strategy to lift containment measures, complementing other measures like increased testing capacities. It is important, however, to ensure that EU citizens can fully trust such innovative digital solutions and can embrace them without fear. The largest possible participation of EU citizens is necessary to exploit the full potential of tracing apps.
EU rules, notably the (GDPR) and the privacy directive provide the strongest safeguards of trustworthiness (i.e. voluntary approach, data minimisation, time limitation) for such apps to operate widely and accurately. This guidance aims to offer the necessary framework to guarantee that citizens have sufficient protection of their personal data and limitation of intrusiveness while using such apps. The EDPB was consulted on the draft guidance. By committing to those standards, the full effectiveness and compliance of such tools can be ensured, even in times of crisis.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “This is the first global crisis where we can deploy the full power of technology to offer efficient solutions and support the exit strategies from the pandemic. Trust of Europeans will be key to success of the tracing mobile apps. Respecting the EU data protection rules will help ensure that our privacy and fundamental rights will be upheld and that the European approach will be transparent and proportional.”
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “The use of mobile phone apps have the potential to really help in the fight against coronavirus, for example by helping users to diagnose themselves, as a safe communication channel between doctors and patients, by alerting users who are at risk of catching the virus, and to help us lift confinement measures. At the same time, we are talking about very sensitive data being collected on the health of our citizens, which we are duty-bound to protect. Our guidance supports the safe development of apps and protect our citizens’ personal data, in line with the EU’s strong data protection rules. We will get out of the pandemic crisis, while keeping our fundamental rights intact.”