On 14th July EU DEL organised a webinar on technology and contact tracing which discussed the development of contact tracing apps in the EU.
Ambassador Walter Stevens welcomed participants by underlining that trust is the key factor in the success of contact tracing apps designed to track the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Apps developed in the EU need to fulfil the highest standards when it comes to privacy, cybersecurity and interoperability.
The event featured experts from Germany and Latvia who presented national apps in the context of broader contact tracing policy. Ms Arabelle Blum and Mr Niklas Kramer from the German Federal Ministry of Health presented the German “Corona Warn App” which enjoys 15 million downloads so far. The app is free-of charge, based decentralised model and on open-source code. Full compliance with the EU' General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ensures only minimum amount of data is collected and processed.
Ms Elīna Dimiņa, Head of Disease Prevention and Control Center in Latvia discussed both manual and technological aspects of tracing. While proximity tracing is useful because it allows instant tracing, she noted that traditional contact tracing couldn’t be fully replaced by apps because of its effectiveness. Furthermore, she applauded the role of private companies, which was key to develop a successful app in Latvia "Apturi Covid".
The importance of interoperability between various apps was discussed by Marco Marsella, Head of Unit eHealth from the European Commission who presented the “EU toolbox for the use of mobile applications for contact tracing and warning”. The toolbox aims to ensure that applications for contact tracing in the EU follow the same standards regarding privacy, cybersecurity and interoperability. Finally, Scott Campbell, Senior Human Rights and Technology Officer of the OHCHR discussed the importance “human rights by design” approach which is followed in the EU. The privacy-health tradeoff doesn’t have to happen when the framework is based on principles of legality, effectiveness and necessity.
While contact-tracing apps are still in early stages, there could be a part of a broader architecture to help our society and economy function in “the new normal”. Informed discussions, like our webinar, are helpful in demystifying the topic.