The main French telecoms operators have agreed to provide user geolocation data to the European Commission. Not all of them were explicitly mentioned, but Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and five other operators agreed to share the data.
With these, the European Commission hopes to have an easier time monitoring the coronavirus pandemic on the territory. This anonymized data will also be used to anticipate several measures concerning the necessary medical equipment or the location of quarantined patients in certain areas.
What management of this personal data?
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) wishes to clarify that user data will be kept for the time of the pandemic, after which it should be deleted. The Commission must also be transparent with the public, otherwise it would be in violation of the confidentiality rules in force. The collection and use of this data should therefore comply with the framework of the ePrivacy Directive as well as the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Several continents and countries are considering implementing a similar measure. In the United States, the government is said to be in talks with Facebook and Google so that these companies provide it with geolocation data for users for the same purpose. In India, where the 1.3 billion inhabitants have now been confined for a few days, the authorities are developing an application capable of tracking the movements of people based on the geolocation of smartphones.
Other countries have also used this technology, but in a slightly different way, because the geolocation data have been used by the authorities to observe personal movements. This is the case, for example, in Taiwan, a country that has been very responsive and has placed those at risk in quarantine. The movements of the latter were closely monitored using smartphones to verify that they did not leave their homes. As of March 19, 2020, Taiwan had only 108 cases of coronavirus and only one from 23 million people.
In any case, it is good to wonder about the issue of privacy management in a situation as unprecedented as the one we are experiencing today.