April 13, 2020

EU Presents a Policy on Coronavirus Mobile Apps

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Around the world, governments are placing their trust in software developers and encouraging innovation and forward-thinking, in effort to develop digital solutions that will help combat the spread of the coronavirus. Germany, Israel, China, Singapore, and Taiwan are some of the countries whose bright minds have developed mobile apps to track overall citizen health and provide them with credible information on key developments around the disease.

In order to safeguard the personal data and privacy of Europeans, The European Commission has adopted a unified policy, stipulating rules which should be followed when developing Covid-19 apps and proper data use, including its eventual destruction once the virus is over. By recommending these common standards, the EC aims to instill transparency in the development process and faith in users, that their personal data is protected.

Important points raised in the Commission’s recommendation include addressing WHO’s warning of the risk of stigmatization of infected individuals, limited processing of data by public health authorities to only what is necessary, the exercise of effective cybersecurity measures, and consultation with data protection authorities.

In the months ahead, The Commission will continue to work with member states to create a pan-European toolbox that predicts the evolution of the coronavirus through anonymous and aggregated location data derived from digital technologies.

As a key player in the fight to sustain the spread of Covid-19, Scalefocus developed the app ViruSafe pro-bono in the span of two weeks. The application is part of a bigger, national system that was built together with four other IT companies.

ViruSafe’s goal is to assist Bulgarian health institutions and its general society with daily symptom logging by users, notifying the appropriate medical staff when an urgent matter arises, as well as data collection analysis of hotspots where the virus is spreading.

Accumulated data is shared with government bodies and forwarded to state research centers, helping to identify patterns used to create statistical prediction models. The app is available to download for free on the Apple Store and Google Play.

 

Let’s explain the process of how ViruSafe handles user data:

  1.     First, the user is prompted to review and agree to the terms and conditions of the app and provide their phone number. An SMS text message is sent in order to authenticate the person’s identity and prevent third-party scams.
  2.     Registration is confirmed by entering a 6-digit verification code received on the user’s phone.
  3.     The UCN (Unique Citizenship Number) is required to make a connection with the Regional Health Inspectorate, and it allows the Ministry of Health to share the user’s symptoms and any chronic conditions to their general practitioner (GP).
  4.     Daily symptoms are marked with “Yes,” “No” or “No symptoms” and are forwarded to the Ministry of Health.

When designing ViruSafe, we have taken the following precautions to ensure user confidentiality and data privacy rights:

  • Scalefocus follows the “data protection by design” protocol as introduced by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), and does not have access to any personal data that is sent, processed and stored on the server while using the app
  • The transfer of data between user devices and the database as well as all data stored is encrypted
  • The server has been protected and tested to withstand cyber attacks
  • Access to the server is limited, and all activity is recorded and monitored by a team dedicated to take the proper course of action if necessary

The Bulgarian Ministry of Health has guaranteed the protection of individuals in the processing of their personal data, and users have the right to access, correct or delete that data at any time. ViruSafe is intended for users who voluntarily wish to share their symptoms in the aid for better diagnosis by national health authorities and the goodwill of our society.

Scalefocus is proud to be a part of the fight against coronavirus, and we hope that you will support our efforts by staying safe and following government measures. Together, we will get through the challenging time ahead and rise up stronger, wiser and more resilient than before.