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Groups Urge Privacy Measures in Ireland’s Virus Tracing App (1)

June 3, 2020, 9:21 PMUpdated: June 4, 2020, 10:42 AM

Ireland’s government must build strong data protections into a contact tracing app designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a coalition of privacy advocates and academics said Wednesday.

The government should reveal partners that are helping to develop the app and meet European privacy law requirements, advocates including Digital Rights Ireland and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said.

The groups issued proposed guidelines designed to help the government build consumer confidence in a digital contact tracing tool the nation’s health officials are developing.

“Without the public’s trust and buy-in, this app will not be effective,” said Eugenia Siapera, head of the Information and Communications Studies School at University College Dublin.

Information collection must be necessary, proportionate, and effective, according to the guidelines. There also must be a “clear and limited purpose” for technologies to process data, the groups said.

The country’s Data Protection Commission is reviewing the government’s data protection impact assessment required under EU law, said Graham Doyle, deputy commissioner for the office.

Ireland’s Department of Health and the Health Service Executive should publish source code so researchers can review whether the tool meets privacy requirements under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, according to the guidelines.

The department said in a statement it and the executive would publish the source code, as well as the data protection impact assessment, and other information “as soon as possible” before the app is launched.

“Privacy-by-design has underpinned all aspects of the Covid Tracker app development,” the department said. “The Irish app is being developed to comply with recent European Commission recommendations and guidance documents on privacy.”

A representative for the executive didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

(June 3 story updated with department of health response in eighth and ninth paragraphs)

To contact the reporter on this story: Julia Weng in Washington at jweng@bloombergindustry.com; Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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