One year under COVID-19 contact tracing apps: what has Europe learned?

COVID-19 Electronic surveillance Privacy Surveillance Europe

Governments are under the obligation to protect the health, lives, and livelihoods of people in their jurisdiction. After the first few weeks of the 2020 spring lockdown(s) in Europe, nearly all European Union Member State governments decided to launch contact-tracing mobile phone applications. It was hoped that the widespread use of such apps would allow governments to limit the spread of the virus while making it possible for people and businesses to return to normal life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the first global pandemic where personal technological devices are well-spread and 'smart' enough to make mass surveillance of the population through their own devices possible. As human rights defenders, we have been highly concerned that -- at least some -- European governments may introduce technological solutions that allow for technologies used as a response to the COVID-19 crisis to be repurposed for mass surveillance, and that these solutions may become permanent features in our daily lives. 

In this report, the authors have identified three main problems with the way Member State governments introduced contact tracing apps.

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