MPs call for committee to study plans for corona tracking app
MPs have called for a committee to investigate plans to track and trace people infected with coronavirus via an app to tackle concerns about privacy.
Parties including the PVV, Labour (PvdA), animal rights party PvdD and Forum voor Democratie have backed plans for a committee hearing, which would take evidence from behavioural scientists and security experts.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge has said a ‘corona app’ is an essential part of the plan to roll back the ‘intelligent lockdown’ measures. The app would track infected people via their mobile phones and alert anyone who has been in contact with them. Around 600 companies have responded to the government’s request for help developing the software.
The cabinet has said details of how the app will work need to be agreed before April 28, when the current social distancing rules are next due to be reviewed.
However, privacy experts have warned against the risks of introducing the app too quickly and said any information must be shared securely and anonymously. Campaigners have also questioned whether the government will be able to meet its target of 60% of the population using the app without making it compulsory.
MPs say parliament must be able to scrutinise any plans by the government to implement an app, given the impact on people’s private lives. ‘We need to be able to assess whether an app will contribute anything,’ said GroenLinks member Kathelijne Buitenweg.
Kees Verhoeven, of coalition party D66, was critical of the rushed way De Jonge announced the app. ‘The idea for the app popped up at a press conference. Then companies were given the Easter weekend to respond. And then on Tuesday evening the minister sent an enthusiastic tweet saying there had been hundreds of responses. It doesn’t suit the image of professionalism we are looking for in this process. Bizarre.’
Esther Ouwehand of the PvdD was also concerned by the speed at which the government was pressing ahead with its plans. ‘There are real questions about what it can achieve when so much is unknown about its reliability,’ she said. ‘In any case, the cabinet is not supposed to do these things off its own bat, Parliament will have the last word.’
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