Saturday 24 October 2020

Privacy watchdog slams coronavirus phone data mapping plan

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Government plans to force phone firms to hand over anonymised data from their clients to the public health institute RIVM for analysis would seriously compromise privacy, according to watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgevens.

The AP is recommending the cabinet does not press ahead with the law in its current form, saying that officials have virtually ignored its earlier recommendations on the draft legislation.

The telephone data would allow the RIVM to see how private individuals move between different parts of the country. If, for example, there was a new outbreak of coronavirus in Zwolle and the data showed a large number of people from Assen had been there, then the local Assen health board could be put on high alert.

The officials say the new law would enable anti-coronavirus measures to be implemented at a local or regional level.

The AP has three main issues with the draft legislation. It says that there are conditions attached to the way the information would be anonymised, that the need to do the research at all is not sufficiently supported and that its suggested guarantees on privacy have not been incorporated.

Phone firms are concerned about the costs of the new legislation because they would have to set up new databases to store the information. In addition, the data would be of interest to the police and the security services, and this too is a risk.

‘A database can leak,’ AP director Alied Wolfsen told broadcaster NOS. ‘Then others can get access to it and combine the data with other information. And that would be wrong.’

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