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European operators to provide geolocation data to Brussels to halt COVID-19

Smartphone location data is increasingly being used by Governments around the world as a way of ensuring that citizens comply with mandatory isolation or quarantine measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Commission will adopt the strategy to help stop the spread of the disease and has met with eight of the European Union's largest telecommunications operators to prepare an action plan.

Among the operators that will participate in the European Commission project are Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Telenor, Telia and A1 Telekom Austria, advances Reuters. The European Commission guarantees that, in order to protect the privacy of citizens, data will be aggregated and made anonymous. In addition, Brussels says it will eliminate information once the crisis period is over.

The decision comes after Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, appealed to European operators to collaborate with Brussels and make data available to users' smartphones to help predict and contain the spread of COVID-19. According to statements by the official responsible for the newspaper POLITICO, the data will also be used to predict the places that will be most in need of hospital equipment and materials.

The European Data Protection Supervisor says that the project itself does not violate privacy regulations, however, it may raise concerns if proper rules are established. Reuters, Wojciech Wiewiorowski, responsible for the Authority, indicated that Brussels should clearly define what data it intends to obtain in order to maintain the transparency of the project and avoid any misunderstandings. The official also says that the European Commission should limit access to data to specialists in the area.