With governments across Europe starting to slowly ease restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ways to track the virus and its spread as well as avoiding a potential second wave have been under debate for some time. In this regard, contact tracing mobile applications have been discussed as a possibility to limit the spread of the illness, but there are many questions on the use and safety of these applications.
In this context, on 14 May, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders took part in a plenary debate at the European Parliament.
In his intervention, Reynders stressed that the use of technology and contact tracing apps are key as they can support the re-opening of economies and help restore the free movement of people and goods in Europe, saying: “The epidemic knows no borders. Data and technology can help us in the fight against the coronavirus and also in lifting of restrictions.”
While some EU member states are already developing their own apps to limit the spread of the virus after the lockdown, Reynders noted that a common and coordinated European approach is needed. He reminded that all contact tracing apps need to be in line with the EU toolbox and guidelines published by the European Commission in April. The guidelines outline a series of principles, such as voluntary use, transparency and cyber security, that need to be followed by all member states.
As the apps need to be trusted by citizens, Reynders highlighted the need for transparency and interoperability and reminded listeners of a series of guidelines published by the European Commission on this topic.
“This is why we need to have a coordinated European approach. We need to act together in a responsible manner and with solidarity to stop the virus,” Reynders concluded.
Exchange of views at today’s Plenary of @Europarl_EN on the use of contact tracing apps in the fight against #Covid19. While digital technology can help us in this fight, @EU_Commission set out principles to ensure respect for fundamental rights, notably #dataprotection (1/3) pic.twitter.com/OLCj8acAIi— didier reynders (@dreynders) May 14, 2020