U.S. tech behemoths, Apple Inc. and Google are working on developing a contract tracing app that utilizes location tracking feature. However, the European Commission has recently raised concerns over these developments, recommending that the apps designed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus should not collect user’s location data.
The statement comes as part of a combined approach for using technology to combat the virus. Data privacy activist have asserted allegations over such apps that apparently are made by many countries in the EU.
The idea is to help doctors identify recent encounters of people that are diagnosed with COVID-19 so as to quarantine them before they infect others. Apple and Google have proposed a similar system and are seeking a way to work with other groups that have adjacent goals and approach.
However, commenting on the privacy concerns, the European Commission said that an app use should be voluntary and should not involve any such data that tracks a user’s location. Location data is not essential or recommended for contact tracing apps, as the motive is not to follow the movements of individuals or to enforce prescriptions.
Reports claim that around 28 countries worldwide have launched contact tracing apps, which include 11 European countries. Some countries are developing apps that are based on GPS or Bluetooth data.
Earlier, Apple and Google had touted that they would help public health authorities and others working on developing apps for Bluetooth-based contact tracing. The two firms will grant permission to app developers and healthcare authorities to access the technology.
EC though states that mobile apps should work on anonymized data as well as with other apps across EU countries. It added that public health authorities will assess the usefulness of such apps by April end, with countries in the EU expected to provide a feedback in May and the EU executive to offer a progress report in June.
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