The European Commission (EC) urged member states to employ a freshly-released recommendation on using mobile apps and mobility data to develop a toolbox to tackle Covid-19 (coronavirus) using the technologies by 15 April.
In a statement, the commission said the recommendation would enable development of coordinated methods to use apps to inform citizens on topics including social distancing, while also helping issue warnings and deploy contact tracing systems.
It also addressed privacy concerns, offering official guidance for “modelling and predicting the evolution of the virus through anonymised and aggregated mobile location data”.
Thierry Breton, commissioner for Internal Market and Services, said digital technologies, apps and mobility data “have enormous potential to help understand how the virus spreads and to respond effectively”.
The toolbox for using such technologies would avoid “compromising on our EU privacy and data protection rules”, he added.
Member states are required to report actions taken by 31 May, making these accessible for peer review by fellow nations and the EC, with a review on progress to take place in June.
The EC stated this process would see “measures that are no longer necessary” being phased out.
It said safeguards must be developed to prevent location data being “de-anonymised”, with guarantees on data and IT security.
Any information gathered for tracking purposes must be deleted after 90 days or as soon as the pandemic is under control, while any details which could identify people should be immediately deleted. It offered assurance there would be no transmission of data to third-parties.
The EC issued its recommendation a day after the European Data Protection Supervisor expressed concerns around the need to balance tracking with privacy, as it called for a pan-European approach to mobile solutions.