The guidelines include the use of Bluetooth technology and voluntary installation. These software will also have to ensure interoperability between the various states to protect citizens even when they cross borders. And the Italian Privacy Guarantor applauds Brussels
BRUSSELS – Europe sets rules for apps that should track the spread of the new coronavirus and facilitate the progressive end of confinement measures. At least on paper these are strict rules. First of all, the use of Bluetooth, proximity communication technology whose range does not exceed ten meters. A solution that should guarantee – reads the cardinal principles illustrated today by the European Commission – an “accurate” estimate of the proximity between devices, thus avoiding geolocation. Here is a clear no. Moreover, the European rules were drawn up in collaboration with the governments of the Union.
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Another aspect is the character of voluntariness: no one within the Union can force citizens to use this app to track the spread of the virus and hopefully avoid new infections. “The installation of the apps must be voluntary”, says Brussels, reiterating that the data “must be transmitted anonymously and in an aggregate form”. And here we reiterate that whoever installs the app must be guaranteed anonymity. Among the key requirements, we can still read, there must be the interoperability of the apps between the various Member States so that citizens are protected even when they cross borders.
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“EU countries are converging towards a common approach” with “solutions that minimize the processing of personal data and recognize interoperability between apps” in view of the “reopening of EU internal borders”, writes Brussels in his document. The apps, explains the EU Commission, should “estimate with sufficient precision” (about 1 meter) “the proximity” between people to make the warning of the increased risk effective if they have come in contact with a positive person at Covid 19 For this, “Bluetooth or other effective techniques” can be used, avoiding geolocation. “Data on the position of citizens is neither necessary nor recommended for the purpose of tracking the infection”, stresses Brussels, specifying that the goal of the app “is not to follow people’s movements or enforce the rules”. Tracing the movements of an individual, the document states, “would violate the principle of minimizing data collection and would create significant security and privacy problems”.
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Among the solutions to ensure anonymity, apps are expected to use an “anonymous and temporary ID” that allows you to establish contact with other nearby users “and to record and store the encrypted data of each other’s IDs. Governments must then make sure that the apps have the indication of the Member State in which they are registered, follow interoperability protocols and ensure that citizens who move from one country to another benefit from certified apps everywhere. And again: they will have to be dismantled by the various governments when they will no longer be necessary.
For the tracking of contacts, the EU insists on the use of anonymous data: apps can warn the user if he has been near a person infected by Covid 19 for a certain period so that he can be tested or isolated, but without revealing the identity of the infected person. “Digital tools will play a crucial role in protecting our citizens when we gradually remove the confinement measures,” said the Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides. “We must innovate and make the best use of technology to fight the pandemic, but we will not settle on our values and our needs for the protection of privacy”, added the Commissioner to the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. The latter then spoke of the app that Google and Apple are developing and which will be examined by the EU commission in the coming weeks: a software that, said Breton, must “fully respect the values and EU rules on privacy”. “I had a positive and constructive exchange with Sundar Pichai on this important issue,” he added, emphasizing the need for “full and rigorous compliance of the interoperability and security of the tracking app” with European standards.
The Italian Guarantor for Privacy approves the guidelines of the EU Antonello Soro: “The principles indicated by the European Commission are perfectly in line with the indications contained in the opinion – of which the Italian Guarantor was rapporteur – made by the EDP, the Committee that brings together the European Guarantor Authorities, two days ago to the same Commission. Commission, in particular, indicates that preferable apps based on the voluntary adhesion of the individual and on proximity systems, such as bluetooth, as they are more selective and therefore have a lower impact on privacy “.