The head of a leading European privacy regulator body warned the success of Covid-19 (coronavirus) contact-tracing apps lay in ensuring consumers could trust their data would be protected, arguing this could only be achieved if transparency about how information would be used was prioritised.
In an interview with industry group GSMA, European Data Protection Board (EDPB) chair Andrea Jelinek (pictured) said it was crucial apps collect only the information essential to deliver meaningful insights to healthcare leaders to fight the spread of the virus, and to assure consumers this was the only purpose their information would be used for.
As a result “transparency is one of the most important issues” Jelinek said, noting if people can’t see what’s going on “they won’t download an app”, in turn meaning “you will not succeed” in combating the outbreak.
She explained the EDPB had not regulated around whether apps should be centralised or decentralised, though the latter “approach is more in line with the data minimisation principle” around anonymity of people with a positive diagnosis.
Jelinek urged developers to adhere to guidelines to ensure contact-tracing apps are effective in stemming the virus.
She highlighted a number of safeguards proposed by the European Commission to ensure data privacy for contract-tracing apps, stressing they must be “strictly voluntary” and contain “sunset” clauses to ensure data is deleted when lockdown measures end.
The EDPB chair added another key element in building consumer trust lies in emphasising contact-tracing apps “don’t need geo-location data”, with Bluetooth more than capable of delivering on their goals.
Last month the European Data Protection Supervisor called for the use of a single app across the European Union, while the European Telecommunications Standards Institute recently detailed plans for an interoperability framework.
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