EU agrees COVID-19 contact tracing framework

As Europe’s borders begin to open up, and people resume travel between countries, the ability to trace contacts across the continent is now critical to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19. European Union member states yesterday agreed a set of technical specifications to enable the safe exchange of data between national contact tracing apps. The common approach supports the relaxation of containment measures across the EU.

Most EU states have launched their own mobile apps as part of their test and trace efforts. The majority of them are ‘decentralised’, so data remains on users’ phones rather than being stored in a central database. When an individual receives a positive diagnosis, they can confirm it in the app. This then triggers an alert to people with whom they were in contact, without sharing any data on identity, location or time of contact. The new technical specs will enable apps to be interoperable so users only need to install their country’s app.

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides said: “these technologies can only be effective if we have a critical mass of users, with interoperability of the applications across EU borders. Data security, fundamental rights and privacy protection in these digital tools will be non-negotiable.”