Saturday 06 June 2020

Scientists warn government about speedy coronavirus app plans

A man busy with his smartphone           Photo: Depositphotos.com

The government needs to pay close attention to the social and legal impact of using apps to trace the spread of coronavirus, a group of 60 academics and experts say in an open letter to ministers.

The cabinet says the use of an app to track and trace coronavirus patients will enable social distancing rules to be relaxed, while keeping a close eye on the spread of the disease.

In particular, ministers must be sure the apps do not conflict with fundamental rights and freedoms, the academics say in their letter: ‘The use of technology to combat the coronavirus must be temporary, essential, proportional, controlled, transparent and voluntary.’

They also warn that the use of tracking apps for monitoring health is far-reaching and could set a precedent for post-crisis usage.

Deadline

The government had invited companies to share their views on developing an app before Tuesday at midday – a deadline which some developers said was ‘far too short’.

‘I know the government is under a lot of pressure to get the economy going again, while combating coronavirus, but this approach is way too limited,’ Marco Woesthuis, a doctor and founder of platform OpenHealthHub, told the Financieele Dagblad.

‘I worry that we will end up with an app which does not meet privacy demands but which we will end up using anyway,’ he said.

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