05 May, 2020

Renew adopts policy recommendations on COVID-19 contact tracing apps

On 29 April, Renew Europe adopted its policy recommendations on the use of contact tracing applications as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Renew Europe Group has repeatedly called for an European Parliament plenary debate on the issue and expects to see stronger guidelines coming from the European Commission including common mandatory standards for all Member States. The adopted Renew position paper is available here.

EU mandatory standards & interoperability

The main purpose of these applications is to allow us to open our economies again and to return to normal as soon as possible. Therefore, Renew MEPs emphasize the necessity of a European coordinated approach and using interoperable solutions to ensure the continued functioning of the internal market. While the deployment of contact tracing applications – with mandatory EU standards and strong guarantees – must be a part of a more global public sanitary and health care plan, their use must be temporary and should be terminated when longer justified.

Winning the trust of citizens

Users have to trust the system, and this can only be achieved by offering full transparency on the design and deployment of the apps, as well as when it comes to the storage and use of personal data. The recourse to such applications should be based on the explicit, freely given and informed consent of the person, and therefore, can never be of mandatory nature. Citizens who prefer not to use a contact tracing application should not be pressured to do so, nor penalised or stigmatised. To prevent the proliferation of harmful contact tracing applications through the EU Single Market, Renew Europe is calling on Member States to certify these applications.

Privacy by design

A key consideration must be the protection of our fundamental rights, especially regarding right to privacy and data protection, therefore the use of such applications must be strictly and exclusively limited to the purpose of COVID19 contact tracing and the collected data should not be used for any other purpose. Data collection must be fully in line with GDPR and ePrivacy regulations, stored for a limited amount of time, be effectively anonymised and access to third parties other than designated health authorities should not be possible.

Karen Melchior, the author of Renew's position paper said:

"Technology is part of fighting the spread of COVID-19. Renew Europe is committed to defending any technological solution that is compliant with the fundamental rights of European citizens. People's trust is essential and can only be gained through full transparency on the design, the development, the deployment as well as the storage and use of their personal data. This is why Renew Europe calls for a coordinated approach ensuring European-wide interoperability, as well as calling for mandatory standards, with strong guarantees for the preservation of our fundamental rights."

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