Coronavirus between privacy protection and contact tracing
History shows us that scientific and technological discoveries constitute the human answer to momentous events such as wars, revolutions, disasters and pandemics. In particular, pandemic events stress human population forcing the elaboration of new strategies that may defuse risks for human health and economic losses.
Coronavirus outbreak forced global communities to renounce the most fundamental freedoms in order to minimise the risk of disease spread. A global pandemic is able to stand-bye those inviolable, indispensable, and unavailable freedoms such as freedom of movement and freedom to assemble. Therefore, human and fundamental freedoms are being sacrificed to preserve health by allowing a rapid restart of economy. In such context, governments and outsourced agencies may rely over information technology and big data tracking processes. In fact, by monitoring citizens’ movements, Governments are able to minimise virus spread. Subsequently, global public health organisations are now using data-empowered contact tracing which is the process of identification of person who may have come into contact with an infected individual.
In this scenario, the European Data Protection Board has clarified that privacy and data protection rights might be limited in presence of extreme circumstances; which is the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, GDPR recital No. 16 and art. 6 and 9 give Governments the necessary flexibility to balance their data privacy and security programmes to special circumstances like pandemics. In particular, GDPR art 9 section (i) states that special category of data can be processed for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health. Moreover, strong anonymization schemes may prevent risks and damage to individuals’ freedom and rights.
In conclusion, a valid instrument is represented by EDPB guidelines about the application of proportionality principle. Such guidelines offer a proper checklist to follow:
– Evaluation of processing purposes legitimacy and efficiency and cost-effectiveness;
– Evaluation of data processing impact over individuals’ rights and freedoms;
– To balance two competing priorities;
– To analyse conclusions and to carry out containment and control measure