Lobby group GSMA said on Wednesday that Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and five other telecom operators had agreed to work with the European Union to share user mobile phone location data with the European Commission to track the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak,media reported.
In addition to Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, other telecoms companies that have agreed to work with the EU include Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Telenonor, Telia and A1 Telekom Austria, Austria’s largest telecommunications operator. Several companies met on Monday with Thierry Breton, the EU’s industrial policy commissioner.
In recent weeks, some have raised concerns that the government’s move could violate users’ privacy by using technology to monitor isolated people and track infections. An EU official said the European Commission would use anonymous data to protect privacy by aggregating mobile phone location data to coordinate measures to track the virus’s spread.
The official also revealed that in order to further ease privacy concerns, the data obtained by the European Commission will be erased after the outbreak is over. He said the EU plan was not designed to collect mobile data, much less to regulate users.
While anonymous data is not within the scope of EU data protection laws, the European Data Protection Regulator (EDPS) said the EU’s project would not breach privacy laws as long as safeguards existed. In a letter to EU officials, EDPS said: “The European Commission should make it clear that they want to access those data sets and be transparent about fairness so as to avoid possible misunderstandings.” “
Wojciech Wiewiorowski, head of EDPS, said: “The EU should also restrict the security of data and grant access only to experts in epidemiology, data protection and data science. “