The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for the use of a single mobile app across the European Union (EU) to track the spread of the Covid-19 (coronavirus), to ensure regulations are not breached in the fight against the disease.

In a video address on 6 April, Wojciech Wiewiorowski, head of the independent watchdog (pictured), said the crisis stemming from the pandemic will “take months to fight” and “years to recover” from, and could not be solved with national tools only.

Wiewiorowski said the use of Bluetooth technology for contact tracing seemed “a useful path to achieve privacy and personal data protection effectively”.

The technology is already being widely considered for tracking purposes, with the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing group considering its use as part of a regional approach, and work underway in Germany along similar lines.

GDPR concerns
Wiewiorowski noted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in May 2018 allowed processing of sensitive data when “necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health”.

This, he noted, meant GDPR was “not an obstacle for the processing of personal data, which is considered necessary by the health authorities to fight the pandemic”.

However, he warned “big data means big responsibility” and the supervising authority would work with the European Commission to ensure measures involving the use of personal data are temporary and removed after the pandemic.

The purpose of any moves and access to data must also be limited, he argued, adding technology developers working on tools to combat the virus must ensure protection is built-in “from the start”.

To achieve this in Europe and beyond, Wiewiorowski said apps should be developed in conjunction with the World Health Organisation.