EU to push for coordinated coronavirus-tracking mobile apps

Virus-tracking apps could help authorities find people who have been exposed to Covid-19 so they can be isolated.
Virus-tracking apps could help authorities find people who have been exposed to Covid-19 so they can be isolated.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - A pan-European approach for Covid-19 mobile apps should be drawn up by April 15, the EU said in proposals set to be rubber-stamped as soon as Wednesday (April 8).

Governments should "as a matter of urgency" coordinate with each other to develop common standards across the 27-nation bloc in the use of virus-tracking technologies, according to draft EU recommendations obtained by Bloomberg.

Measures should be aimed at making the apps inter-operable or nations should even potentially develop a single app to be used across the bloc, the European Commission, the EU's regulatory arm, added.

As nations across the EU have been grappling with surging infection and death rates, the bloc's stringent data privacy rules have been pushed to their limits amid efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

In the recommendations, the commission is laying out plans to use digital tools in the most effective and safe way across the EU. The authority's press service said the measures are in the pipeline for today and will be announced once they are adopted by EU commissioners.

With developers in the UK, Germany and elsewhere working on mobile phone apps to track people who've been exposed to the coronavirus, the EU is looking to establish common standards that would make the data gleaned from the apps more comparable.

The benchmarks for contact tracing apps are part of a broader effort by the EU to coordinate exit strategies when member states slowly lift existing lock-down measures.

Virus-tracking apps could help authorities find people who have been exposed to Covid-19 so they can be isolated and may ultimately show the governments a way out of the restrictive social-isolation measures that are keeping schools, shops and restaurants closed.

EU data protection regulators, who have the power to levy fines of up to 4 per cent of a company's annual sales, said earlier this month that the bloc's General Data Protection Regulation provides for exceptional circumstances, such as epidemics, and there is room for "invasive measures," as long as they are proportionate.