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Coronavirus conundrum: COVID-19 Monitoring Programs that don’t breach privacy

Countries across Europe are trying to roll out electronic programs to restrain the spread of the coronavirus, but they face a huge challenge: which makes them compatible with the EU’s stringent data privacy guidelines.

As nationally lockdowns start to show signs of”flattening the curve” of this coronavirus pandemic, authorities are attempting to choose when and how to facilitate the constraints stifling their markets. And they need to be cautious to prevent a possibly catastrophic”second wave” of ailments while folks begin leaving their houses and returning to work.

Many are currently hoping that both analyzing campaigns and electronic technologies help them trace individuals that are still in danger of disease. That is where real-time information can assist, based on Eiko Yoneki, senior researcher at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.

“After this period is finished, there’s certainly going to be another wave. So to avoid that and minimize the economic, human and social life harm, I believe this sort of information would help,” Yoneki informed Euronews.

But using mobile programs to monitor people’s movements and connections is an extremely sensitive issue in Europe. Before this month, Human Rights Watch and over 100 other businesses issued a joint call for guards on how authorities utilize digital surveillance, such as cellular phone location information, to combat the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology programmers have been searching for strategies to monitor and suppress the spread of the new coronavirus. South Korea, China, and Singapore have used programs as part of the public health reply to COVID-19, however, critics have raised concerns regarding privacy and illegal usage of information.

Daragh O’Brien, head of information governance consultancy Castlebridge, states that the strategy taken from these Asian countries is not in any way suitable for Europe.

“What we could learn in the West is that we’re able to look at everything worked out. And then we could work backward from people to recognize how we can implement equivalent or similar controls, if needed, in a European context adapting to our basic rules and principles,” explained O’Brien.

“Because, finally, if we determine those values are not crucial in a catastrophe, well it is merely a matter of time until we have another catastrophe that’ll excuse the forfeiting of these values that were hard fought for and won in Europe.”

Israel made headlines as it declared it would begin monitoring infected taxpayers and their connections using phone surveillance technologies traditionally allowed to counter-terrorism operations.

Turkey said on Thursday it might use a smartphone program to monitor infected patients and their connections. If a person found to be favorable for COVID-19 — or even a man who has been in close contact with a single — breaks their quarantine, then they will find an automatic text message or telephone call ordering them to return home. Should they ignore the warning, then authorities will undoubtedly be alerted.

Pan-European strategy
Meanwhile, in Europe, there has been this kind of scramble to come up with coronavirus monitoring apps the European Commission predicted this week for a common EU strategy.

“I’d say Europe is very lucky about this: we’ve the GDPR, we’ve got privacy as a basic right in our legislation,” says Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director-General of this European IT reception Digital Europe.

“Many of those technologies which are being developed in Europe are now complying rather than showing details of personal information,” she informed Euronews.

In Germany, over a hundred researchers in eight European nations — that the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) job — have been operating on the backbone of a program that would be available for any nation to use and could be compliant with EU privacy legislation.

Chancellor Merkel — who grew up in Communist East Germany — stated that when a smartphone program was shown to be handy to monitor the spread of coronavirus, she would be eager to test it himself.

While politicians are attempting to popularise the thought, specialists note that a huge share of the nation’s population would have to opt-in and put in those programs onto their mobiles for them to work. The challenge for authorities and developers are going to be to convince people that their privacy is satisfactorily protected.