HomeInsightsEuropean Commission publishes details of EU toolbox developed by Member States for the use of mobile apps to contact trace and warn in response to the coronavirus pandemic

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This is part of the common coordinated approach to support the gradual lifting of confinement measures set out in the Commission Recommendation of 8 April 2020 (see item above). The toolbox is accompanied by guidance on data protection for the use of such contact tracing mobile apps.

Essentially, the toolbox provides a practical guide for Member States in the implementation of contact tracing and warning apps. The toolbox sets out the essential requirements for these apps:

  • they should be fully compliant with the EU data protection and privacy rules, as set out in the guidance (on which the European Data Protection Board was consulted);
  • they should be implemented in close coordination with, and approved by, public health authorities;
  • they should be installed voluntarily, and dismantled as soon as no longer needed;
  • they should aim to exploit the latest privacy-enhancing technological solutions, e.g. Bluetooth proximity technology, which does not enable the tracking of people’s locations;
  • they should be based on anonymised data: they should alert people who have been in proximity for a certain duration to an infected person to get tested or self-isolate, without revealing the identity of the people infected;
  • they should be interoperable across the EU so that citizens are protected even when they cross borders;
  • they should be anchored in accepted epidemiological guidance, and reflect best practice on cybersecurity, and accessibility; and
  • they should be secure and effective.

While allowing for easier, quicker and more efficient tracing than traditional systems based on interviews with infected patients, manual tracing will continue to cover citizens who could be more vulnerable to infection, but are less likely to have a smartphone, such as elderly or disabled persons.

A common approach to other functionalities, in particular on information and symptom tracking, may be developed in future iterations of the toolbox.

The toolbox is part of an ongoing process of Member States working together to devise and refine in the coming weeks and months the use of this and other practical tools. This first version will be enhanced in light of Member State experiences.

Public health authorities will assess the effectiveness of the apps at national and cross-border level by 30 April 2020. Member States should report on their actions by 31 May 2020 and make the measures accessible to other Member States and the Commission for peer review. The Commission will assess the progress made and publish periodic reports starting in June 2020 and throughout the crisis, recommending action or the phasing out of measures that seem no longer necessary. To read the Commission’s announcement in full and for a link to the toolbox, click here.