Governments around the world are desperately trying to stem the spread of coronavirus, as confirmed cases have climbed to 400,000 and more than 18,000 have died. Today, the European Union is turning to telephone monitoring to help manage the crisis.
As reported by Reuters, eight telecommunication companies have agreed to provide the European Commission with mobile phone location data to monitor the spread of coronavirus. Participating companies are Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Telenor, Telia, A1 Telekom Austria, and Vodafone.
The agreement came on Wednesday, just days after the European Market and Services Commission’s Thierry Breton encouraged companies to provide the data.
“We will select a large operator through the country,” said Brenton, confirming to POLITICO that he made the request during a conference call on Monday. “We want to be very fast and follow it on a daily basis.”
Brenton stated that the data will be used to deduce where medical requirements are needed to address COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary steps, and these are certainly the most extraordinary times. Even so, concerns remain regarding Big Brother-type privacy and monitoring – especially as it is easier to implement such measures than it is to cycle.
“The [European Data Protection Supervisor] emphasizes that such developments generally do not contain the possibility of falling behind in the event of an emergency,” EDPS head Wojciech Wiewiorowski wrote in a letter to Reuters.
To address this concern, an EU official told Reuters that the Commission would use anonymous data and aggregate location data. Additionally, data will be deleted once the health crisis has passed.
However, our global history of data security is less than stellar, and studies have proven that people can re-identify even from anonymous data. It is also understood that some are afraid of political organizations tracking people’s locations, regardless of the initial reasoning behind them. State monitoring and privacy violations are real concerns, though there are bigger, more urgent ones today.
Mashable has reached out to participating companies and global mobile operators of the lobbying group GSMA for feedback, and will be updated when we hear back.
[[tagToTranslate] European-union [t] location-tracking [t] phone tracking [t] coronavirus [t] covid-19 [t] tech [t] smartphone