Tracking mobile devices to fight coronavirus

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Series Details PE 649.384
Publication Date April 2020
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Governments around the world have turned to digital technologies to tackle the coronavirus crisis. One of the key measures has been to use mobile devices to monitor populations and track individuals who are infected or at risk. About half of the EU’s Member States have taken location-tracking measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus disease, mainly by working with telecommunications companies to map population movements using anonymised and aggregate location data and by developing applications (apps) for tracking people who are at risk.

The European Commission has called for a common EU approach to the use of mobile apps and mobile data to assess social distancing measures, support contact-tracing efforts, and contribute to limiting the spread of the virus. While governments may be justified in limiting certain fundamental rights and freedoms in order to take effective steps to fight the epidemic, such exceptional and temporary measures need to comply with applicable fundamental rights standards and EU rules on data protection and privacy.

This briefing discusses location-tracking measures using mobile devices in the context of the Covid 19 crisis. It describes initiatives in EU Member States and provides a brief analysis of fundamental rights standards and the EU policy framework, including applicable EU rules on data protection and privacy.

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ESO Records
Recommendation (EU) 2020/518 on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis, in particular concerning mobile applications and the use of anonymised mobility data
Mobile applications to support contact tracing in the EU’s fight against COVID-19: Common EU Toolbox for Member States
Guidance on Apps supporting the fight against COVID 19 pandemic in relation to data protection

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