Covid-19. Mandatory use of screening apps contradicts WHO and European Commission guidelines – Technology

António Costa’s executive this week proposed a law proposal delivered to parliament to make it mandatory to use the ‘StayAway Covid’ contact tracking application in work, school and academic contexts, as well as in the Armed Forces, security forces and public administration, a controversial proposal whose constitutionality was questioned.

The Government’s draft law provides for fines of up to 500 euros for non-compliance, either for the use of the application in those contexts or for the use of a mask, which the Government also wants to make mandatory in “access or permanence in public spaces and roads”.

The intention of António Costa, who this week declared that he wanted to give “a shake” to Portuguese society, contradicts the guidelines of the WHO, which in May this year published several ethical considerations on the subject, explicitly saying that “the decision to download and using an application that contributes to public health surveillance or digital proximity tracking must be voluntary and informed ”.

“Governments should not make the use of an application mandatory” and “a person should be free to turn off the application whenever he wants and he should be free to delete it whenever he wants”, defends the United Nations health agency.

In guidelines on the use of screening applications issued in April this year, the European Commission argued that “installing an application on mobile devices must be voluntary and must not have any negative consequences for the person who decides not to download or use the application ”.

Despite not being binding guidelines, these principles returned in May to guide new guidelines from the Commission on the compatibility of these applications between the different member states, in order to guarantee their functionality when citizens move: “they must be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cybersecurity, use temporary and anonymous data, use ‘Bluetooth’ technology and be approved by national health authorities ”.

No European country has mandatory applications. Slovenia was the only European country to consider making the ‘OstaniZdrav’ screening application mandatory, which started to be applied in August this year, just before ‘StayAway Covid’ was launched, and was adapted that used in Germany.

Before introducing it, Janez Jansa’s government defended its mandatory use for infected or quarantined people, which was contested by the opposition in the Slovenian parliament, which accused the executive of slowly introducing a dictatorship into the country.

China, where the new coronavirus emerged, was also the first country to adopt contact-tracking applications, one of which gave citizens a contagion risk code for exposure to the virus, without which no one could enter or leave certain regions. from the country.

In Turkey by Recep Tayip Erdogan, anyone infected with the new coronavirus is required to download the ‘Hayat Eve Sigar’ application and his location data is shared by the Turkish Ministry of Health with the police. Whoever violates the quarantine is warned first, but then can be fined or arrested.

Singapore imposes the use of its screening application, ‘Tracetogether’, on migrant workers who it considers to be at high risk, such as those in the construction sector that share community dormitories or those who work in ports.

In Qatar, the ‘Ehteraz’ application is mandatory for anyone who wants to walk on the street and who refuses to install it can be fined or subject to three years in prison.

In India, one of the countries with the most infections, since May it is mandatory for all workers in the public and private sectors or for people in confined areas to install the ‘Aarogya Setu’ application, under penalty of fines or prison sentences that can go up to two years.

The National Data Protection Commission warned on Wednesday that the mandatory use of ‘StayAway Covid’ “raises serious questions regarding citizens’ privacy” and the D3 Association has already said that it admitted to proceeding with a precautionary measure to curb the obligation to install the application, saying that “mandatory Apps do not belong to a democratic Europe”.

Left Block, PCP, CDS-PP, PAN, Greens and Chega have already spoken out against the mandatory use of the application, while PSD leader Rui Rio has expressed doubts regarding the effectiveness of such measure, referring his analysis to consideration in parliamentary committee.

The President of the Republic said that if constitutional doubts persist about the law that requires the use of ‘StayAway Covid’, he will send it for preventive inspection by the Constitutional Court.

The mobile application, launched on September 1st, allows to track, quickly and anonymously and through the physical proximity between ‘smartphones’, the contagion networks by covid-19, informing the users that they were, in the last 14 days, in the same someone infected with the new SARS-Cov2 coronavirus.

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