article / 17 Apr 2020
COVID-19: The EU Commission adopts digital toolbox in order to support exit strategies
The focus in society has now started to shift to strategies for a gradual and safe lifting of the confinement measures set out to reverse the spread of COVID-19. In response to these developments the EU Commission has, together with the EU Member states and several authorities, taken initiative for a first version of a digital toolbox in order to support the coming phases of de-escalation.
In short, the digital toolbox is a practical guide for developing and implementing digital tools in the battle against COVID-19, for example in the form of contact tracing apps and use of mobile data. Regarding such contact tracing apps the following essential requirements are highlighted in this version of the toolbox:
- Contact tracing apps should be installed, used and uninstalled voluntarily
- Contact tracing apps should be approved by public health authorities
- Contact tracing apps should be fully compliant with the EU personal data protection and privacy rules, such as the GDPR; and
- Contact tracing apps should be decommissioned as soon as no longer needed to fight the spread of infection.
In addition there are also different technical, legal and social aspects that are highlighted and needs to be considered, such as the following:
- The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) will regularly adopt new guidelines and statements concerning compliance with data processing that is undertaken in disease control measures. EDPB has, inter alia, stated that location tracking is not appropriate in a privacy perspective and that contact tracing apps rather should be based on other technological solutions, such as Bluetooth.
- Contact tracing apps should be based on anonymised data without revealing the identity of peoples’ health status or without risking stigmatization of certain groups in the population.
- Contact tracing apps should be interoperable across the EU so that citizens are protected even when they cross borders between the member states.
- To the extent that contact tracing apps contains functionalities supporting diagnostics or treatment (e.g. concerning symptoms), applicable rules for medical devices has to be considered. Setterwalls has previously reported that the medical device regulation (MDR) will probably not apply this year as planned. However, the existing rules for medical devices still needs to be considered, including in relation to apps and software products.
The digital toolbox is a part of the common EU approach to coordinate the member states’ actions against COVID-19 in the long run and is intended to complement other actions to reverse the spread, such as continued testing and contact tracing. The work is performed in the already established e-Health Network with the support of the EU Commission and EDPB. Work will continue to further develop the toolbox and it may come to include additional functionalities, likely concerning use of mobile data, symptom tracking and information.
The toolbox in full is available here. Setterwalls is covering the area and will keep you updated.