Smartphones have an important role in the fight against the COVID-19. From a public health perspective, apps that warn when we are near an infected person are the most promising. The EU is working to ensure that contact tracking apps do not infringe our private data and can be used in other countries. Applications to monitor contact with infected people can be an important aid in curbing the epidemic, especially for the strategy of national authorities, since it may provide the authorities with a clearer picture of the spread of the virus.
In a plenary debate on 14 May 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) noted that together with other COVID-19 related measures, such as social distancing, masks and testing, contact tracing apps can help to manage the spread of the pandemic. However, MEPs highlighted that the safety of citizens’ personal data and privacy need to be guaranteed at all times when it comes to the use of these apps, since the various digital tracking solutions designed to track and slow down the spread of the epidemic, can be abused.
Among various digital measures aimed at mapping, monitoring and mitigating the pandemic, the Commission has preferred contact tracing apps based on short-range technologies such as Bluetooth rather than geolocation, as most promising from a public health perspective. These apps can alert users who have been in proximity to an infected person for a certain time, including those one may not notice or remember, without tracking the user’s location. The Guidance on Apps supporting the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in relation to data protection, prepared by the Commission in cooperation with Member States, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Data Protection Board intends to guarantee sufficient protection of data and limit intrusiveness when developing any COVID-19 related apps.