Orange, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and five other telecom operators have agreed to share with the European Commission their geolocation data collected using mobile phones in an attempt to halt the progression of the coronavirus epidemic, announced on Wednesday the GSM Association, which brings together the major operators.
These companies, which also include Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Telenor, Telia, and A1 Telekom Austria, met Monday with the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Digital Thierry Breton.
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The Commission will aggregate this geolocation data to coordinate measures to stem the spread of the virus, said a European official. The data will be destroyed once the health crisis is overcome, he said, in order to respond to concerns about possible privacy breaches.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has stated that this project does not a priori violate privacy rules as long as safeguards are in place. "The Commission should clearly define the set of data it wishes to obtain and ensure transparency vis-à-vis the public, in order to avoid any misunderstanding," EDPS said in a letter to the European executive that Reuters was able to consult.
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"It would also be preferable to limit access to this data to authorized experts in spatial epidemiology, data protection and scientific data," said EDPS director Wojciech Wiewiorowski. The Polish lawyer, however, warned against the possibility that such measures could become permanent. "I want to emphasize that such a solution must be considered extraordinary," he said.
This strategy is already in use or about to be implemented in South Korea, Russia or even Israel to the chagrin of its detractors who denounce an attack on individual freedoms.