Slovakia green-lights Coronavirus tracking using telco data

Slovakia green-lights Coronavirus tracking using telco data

27 March 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Slovakia has approved a law which allows the government to monitor the movements of those infected by the Coronavirus.

According to the FT, passed on Wednesday 25 March, the amendment will give Slovakia’s Public Health Office access to location data from the mobile phones of those quarantined, in order to try and contain the spread of the virus.

The new rules follow that of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, where it has similarly implemented invasive tracking measures but has also successfully slowed the spread of the virus.

In attempt to quell the backlash against these measures, Peter Pellegrini, the former prime minister, confirmed that the rules would only apply “specific people in whom the disease has been confirmed or are in compulsory quarantine” adding that this is only due to the state of emergency we currently face.

Echoing his sentiments, Maria Kolikova, Slovakia’s justice minister, said: “It is the same with other rights, for example freedom of speech: freedom of speech is not absolute. There are certain reasons why we can limit these rights . . . I’m certain that if the protection of health and life is at stake, legislation like this is appropriate”.

The story remains the same across most of Europe. In Germany, the government has hinted at using “technical means” to monitor those who are sick.

Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vuci recently said last week that they were tracking people with Italian telephone numbers, while the Czech Republic is planning to launch a “smart quarantine system” in April, though it is consensual.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, also said that the government would look into “electronic solutions” to help manage the crisis.

According the New York Times, the UK government is building an app that would alert the people who have come in contact with someone known to have the coronavirus.

The project will build upon a surveillance tool rolled out in China to try and curb the outbreak. Unlike Chinese version of the app, the UK version will rely on voluntary participation and sharing of information.

Capacity spoke to experts in the field of data privacy about what such measures would mean for  Human Rights Act, read the full story from Melanie Mingas here.