Covid-19: Citizens’ trust will be key to success of tracing app

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MEP Kelly says tracing app has to guarantee security

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23 April 2020 | 0

Ensuring citizens’ trust in any potential EU tracing app to combat the spread of Covid-19 will be essential to its success, according to Sean Kelly, MEP and leader of Fine Gael in the EU Parliament.

This warning comes amid debate at EU level over the potential development of a mobile phone application to contain and limit the spread of the coronavirus. Using Bluetooth technology, the application would trace contact between people and warn those who had come into contact with an infected individual. 

However, the app would have to guarantee security, according to Kelly: “The added value of a tracing app is obvious. It can record contacts that a person may not notice or remember and warn them if they have been in close proximity to someone who has the coronavirus, allowing them to take precautions and self-isolate. If such an app was effectively used, it could be a very useful tool and part of a wider strategy to help countries to begin operating more normally again. 

 

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“However, it is understandable that such technology would raise privacy concerns. Having worked extensively on the issue of data protection, I know how important it is to protect our citizens in this regard.”

EU rules, such as GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive, could safeguard the operation, he added.

Arguing in favour of the development of a single EU-wide tracing app, Kelly stated that the EU could work together “to utilise the very best technical expertise in its development, in compliance with data protection requirements, to ensure the information gathered is solely used for its main purpose, anonymously, for a limited time, and is protected from hackers.”

Additionally, the MEP welcomed the establishment of a common EU toolbox for such apps, which requires that they be voluntary, approved by national health authorities, ensure personal data is securely encrypted, and that it is dismantled once no longer required.

“A well-developed, secure app could be another step we could take collectively to protect our health and that of the most vulnerable,” said Kelly. “However, it would only be a complement to other vital measures such as social distancing and good hygiene until a vaccine is developed.”

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