Analysis shows that EU provides workable guidelines for the development and use of COVID-19 apps

There are growing calls for coordination at EU level to focus on ‘European values’, especially on the protection of the fundamental right to privacy and protection of personal data. To get a better understanding of what is already in place on a European level, we took a closer look at the EU Recommendation for development and use of mobile apps and data, and compared it against the demands of a coalition of concerned groups in the Netherlands.

The development of a national COVID-19 app requiring citizens to volunteer their data for surveillance purposes blurs the boundaries between public health and civil liberties. Therefore, in recent weeks, various European Member States, public and private-sector institutions, experts, associations, opinion makers and trendwatchers have expressed their concerns about cybersecurity, data security and privacy in the light of such an app.

In mid-April, Veilig Tegen Corona, a coalition of concerned groups in the Netherlands, called for the development process of coronavirus apps to be carefully considered and published a list of ten criteria for any COVID-19 app. 

European Data Strategy is built on European values

Since the beginning of this year the European Commission (EC) has a vision for European data sharing in place that revolves around the European values. Following on from that, in April the EC published its EU Recommendation for developing a common EU-wide approach for the use of mobile apps and mobile data, including privacy and data protection principles.

Closer examination of Veilig Tegen Corona’s ten criteria and the EU Recommendation reveals that most of the concerns raised by Veilig Tegen Corona are addressed by the EU Recommendation. Furthermore, both the coalition and the EU Recommendation echo our long-standing call for data sovereignty.

In other words, thanks to the EU Recommendation, tangible, actionable and executable guidelines are now in place to enable people and organisations alike to govern their own data, putting them in charge of deciding who has access to their data and under what conditions. Therefore, the EU Recommendation serves as an excellent starting point for app developers to ensure protection of fundamental rights and freedoms particularly the rights to privacy and protection of personal data.

‘How EU sets out guiding privacy and security principles for contact-tracing app development. Ten criteria of the Dutch Veilig Tegen Corona coalition analysed against the EU Recommendation on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis’.

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