May 14, 2020 / 10:18 AM / 14 days ago

Virus-tracing apps must not be used for mass surveillance - EU says

FILE PHOTO: EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders attends a meeting of the College of EU Commissioners in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - COVID-19 contact-tracing apps must only be used during the pandemic and will need to be automatically de-activated once the crisis is over, EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said on Thursday in a bid to allay concerns over state surveillance.

Countries are rushing to develop mobile tracing apps, hoping smartphone technology could help bring about a reopening of borders and economic activity without unleashing a second wave of the pandemic.

“Apps cannot be used for mass surveillance. Individuals will keep control on their data,” Reynders told EU lawmakers in a plenary sitting, as deputies reiterated concerns over risks that these apps could pose to privacy.

“Apps should be only used during the crisis and be deactivated at the latest when the pandemic is over,” Reynders said, adding the de-activation should occur even if users forget to uninstall the applications.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, Editing by William Maclean

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