European governments are allowed to collect and use location data of citizens to fight the coronavirus, provided it is done anonymously. The verdict comes from the European Data Protection Board, the union of European privacy regulators. Earlier this week, it was already announced that Austria, among other things, is collecting location data from citizens via the mobile network of telecom provider A1. It concerns anonymised data. Austria uses this to map the distribution of the coronavirus. Israel is also doing something similar. The EDPB now has a detailed explanation put online about what governments are allowed to do with personal data in the fight against the virus. It contains a specific section on location data. Governments wishing to collect this must do so anonymously in the first place. Under the current e-privacy directive, it is permitted to collect data anonymously without permission, if governments introduce legislation that is necessary to guarantee public safety. If the data cannot be collected anonymously, enough safeguards must be built into the system whereby citizens can refuse to have their data recorded. Governments must also be able to justify that the data collection is proportional and take the least drastic measures. In some cases, tracking individuals may be proportional, the EDPB says.
The association of privacy regulators said earlier this week that the GDPR does not hinder the fight against the corona pandemic. The union is now giving concrete examples of this, such as what employers are allowed to do with the registration of health data of employees, and on what grounds other information may be collected.