Report finds privacy and data protection shortcomings in some government measures to address Covid-19 pandemic

Shortcomings in the protection of privacy and data protection in some legislative and technical measures taken by governments to combat Covid-19 have been identified in a report published this week by human rights organisation the Council of Europe.

The report, Digital Solutions to Fight COVID-19, examines the impact on privacy and data protection rights in the 55 countries, in Africa, Latin America and Europe, which have ratified the 1981 “Convention 108”, a legally binding instrument to protect privacy and data protection open to any country. The report also reviews digital contact tracing apps and monitoring tools.

Deficiencies in compliance with the requirement for a legal basis for measures adopted, proportionality of such measures, justification by public interest, and data subject consent for data processing, were identified.

It found a blurring of boundaries between healthcare and police enforcement purposes, and cites data protection risks arising from the security, storage and sharing of data, which have led to some countries withdrawing measures.

Out of the 55 Convention 108 signatories, 26 jurisdictions chose a decentralised app for proximity and contact tracing apps, while 14 opted for a centralised app. Just five used no app at all. 20 app-using countries had published the app’s source code.

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