The S&D Group in the European Parliament underlines that contact tracing apps can only be part of a broader strategy in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and is calling for such contact tracing apps to respect basic freedoms and fundamental rights like data protection and privacy when used to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Telecommunications ministers are meeting today to discuss the use of tracing apps and electronic communication data. S&D MEPs want to see common standards at EU level, fully in line with European data protection and privacy rules.
Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, said:
“Contact tracing apps alone will not protect us from the COVID-19 pandemic. They could be a part of a broader recovery strategy provided that they fully respect fundamental rights. Currently, there is a serious lack of clarity on how these apps would function and what their added value would be.
“Any potential app would have to be voluntary and have data protection, data minimisation and privacy built-in by design. Voluntary download and use of the app also implies that non-users must not face any disadvantages, such as being denied access to shops or transport systems, as a result of their free choice. Apps would have to be used for the sole purpose of contact tracing, with no access for commercial players or law enforcement authorities to the data. Collected data should be stored on the user’s device and not in a centralised database.
“People need to trust the apps to use them. Trust is not harnessed through empty promises, but by establishing clear rules with high standards of protection. That’s why national data protection authorities must be closely involved in supervising the development and use of any app.
“Furthermore, we cannot forget that a lot of people do not own a smartphone or are not familiar with how apps work and would therefore not be able to use the app.
“This is not the time for EU governments to go their own way. We need a coordinated solution throughout the EU, with closely harmonised, common standards that are fully in line with European data protection law.
“Turning apps into electronic tags will not restore the basic freedoms that so many people miss today, such as the right to walk around freely or meet with friends and family. Especially in these extraordinary times, interfering with the right to data protection and privacy must remain necessary, effective, proportionate and temporary.”