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Portuguese demand data protection and anonymity in COVID-19 tracking applications

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to give no respite, several disease-tracking solutions have emerged around the world. In Portugal, the launch of an application to help health authorities track infected people is coming soon. A recent DECO survey reveals that the Portuguese recognize the advantages of the solution, but they still express some reservations about the privacy of their data.

Based on the thousand responses obtained online between April 24th and 27th, the consumer protection association indicates that the vast majority of respondents recognize the usefulness of an application that sends alerts to users if they enter an area where there are infected people or after contact with those who have the disease.

However, the issue of geolocation is generating discomfort. About half of the respondents say they only agree with the possibility for telecommunications operators to collect GPS data for tracking if the information collected is anonymous. DECO indicates that if the guarantee does not exist, the number drops to one third.

Results | COVID-19 DECO survey credits: DECO

Data sharing is another issue that generates some reservations. The study shows that the majority of Portuguese people seem to accept widely measures such as issuing immunity certificates or monitoring infected people as long as anonymity is guaranteed. In all, less than 60% of respondents say that they would feel comfortable using an application in which the data was not anonymous.

Results | COVID-19 DECO survey credits: DECO

In addition, 84% of the Portuguese questioned agree that there are no absolute guarantees of anonymity and just over 40% replied that they would accept to voluntarily install an application that allows authorities to have full access to information about their travel and location. The survey also shows that more than a fifth of the Portuguese have already downloaded some type of application related to COVID-19.

Results | COVID-19 DECO survey credits: DECO

DECO stresses that the national authorities must come up with a solution that follows the specifications of the European Commission, ensuring anonymity of users and ensuring that the installation of the application is voluntary. It is essential that the legislator take all measures to minimize possible violations of privacy, emphasizes the association.

In addition to the tracking solutions that Apple and Google are creating, there are also several European countries that have decided to choose their own solutions. However, the controversy over user privacy has been marking, for example, the development of the UK monitoring application.

The Government, the National Health Service and other British entities linked to the development of the application are being accused of lack of transparency. There are already several experts who say that the solution raises questions about the privacy and security of those who use it and whether it will really work properly between new iPhone and Android smartphones.