EU Members States, supported by the Commission, have developed an EU toolbox for the use of mobile applications for contact tracing and warning in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is part of a common coordinated approach to support the gradual lifting of confinement measures.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Member States, backed by the Commission, have been assessing the effectiveness, security, privacy, and data protection aspects of digital solutions to address the crisis. Contact tracing apps, if fully compliant with EU rules and well coordinated, can play a key role in all phases of crisis management, especially when time will be ripe to gradually lift social distancing measures. They can complement existing manual contact tracing and help interrupt the transmission chain of the virus.
A common approach for voluntary and privacy-compliant tracing apps
The Commission provides a practical guide for Member States in the implementation of contact tracing and warning apps. The toolbox sets out the essential requirements for these apps:
- They should be fully compliant with the EU data protection and privacy rules, as put forward by the guidance presented today following consultation with the European Data Protection Board.
- They should be implemented in close coordination with, and approved by, public health authorities.
- They should be installed voluntarily, and dismantled as soon as no longer needed.
- They should aim to exploit the latest privacy-enhancing technological solutions. Likely to be based on Bluetooth proximity technology, they do not enable tracking of people’s locations.
- They should be based on anonymised data: They can alert people who have been in proximity for a certain duration to an infected person to get tested or self-isolate, without revealing the identity of the people infected.
- They should be interoperable across the EU so that citizens are protected even when they cross borders.
- They should be anchored in accepted epidemiological guidance, and reflect best practice on cybersecurity, and accessibility.
- They should be secure and effective.
While allowing for easier, quicker and more efficient tracing than traditional systems based on interviews with infected patients, manual tracing will continue to cover citizens who could be more vulnerable to infection but are less likely to have a smartphone, such as elderly or disabled persons.
A common approach to other functionalities, in particular on information and symptom tracking, may be developed in future iterations of the toolbox.
By 30 April 2020, public health authorities will assess the effectiveness of the apps at national and cross-border level. Member States should report on their actions by 31 May 2020 and make the measures accessible to other Member States and the Commission for peer review. The Commission will assess the progress made and publish periodic reports starting in June 2020 and throughout the crisis, recommending action or the phasing out of measures that seem no longer necessary.