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EU Calls for Voluntary Use of Virus-tracing Apps to Fight Covid-19

One of the latest announcements by the European Commission encourages travelers to use virus-tracing apps so that Covid-19 restrictions may be lifted earlier and travel can resume, raising privacy concerns in the meantime.

The concept behind the virus-tracing technology is to enable national health authorities across the Union to inform users of Covid-19 test results, assess exposure risk, and issue alerts.

The European Commission underlined however that the use of such mobile tracking applications was to be purely voluntary.

“Apps cannot be used for mass surveillance. Individuals will keep control on their data,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said this week in an attempt to allay fears of future use by governments for surveillance.

He went on to add that once the coronavirus crisis was over, the contact-tracing apps would be automatically de-activated.

Several countries are already working on mobile tracing apps in efforts to reopen borders soon as tourism is a major economic driver in the EU.

It should be noted that EU member states have agreed on guidelines to ensure cross-border interoperability between tracing apps.

“Tracing apps must be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cybersecure, using pseudonymised data, should rely on Bluetooth technology and be interoperable across borders as well as across operating systems,” said the European Commission in a statement, issuing at the same time guidelines that will help developers work with health experts to design compatible apps.

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