SOC Statement on COVID Track and Trace Apps

SOC Statement on COVID Track and Trace Apps
In seeking instruments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic many member states have been reaching out to technology. Several member states have either initiated or are in the process of initiating ‘track and trace’ appsthat bear the promise of controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as well as governing the exit from lockdown conditions. 

However, despite the promise of such benefits there is also ample evidence underlining the need to exert utmost caution in safeguarding and guaranteeing fundamental rights when using such surveillance instruments. 

As members of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens (SOC) Group of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) we urge all member states to ensure that the core principles of safeguarding human rights are in place. We call for strict technical as well as legal safeguards that will mitigate the risks regarding the protection of personal data and privacy. Only then will the promised social benefits of innovative technologies be realized.

Deliberations of the use of such ‘track and trace apps’ should be democratic and participatory. The principles of efficacy, proportionality and transparency should be observed. A transparent and well-defined institutional structure to oversee the implementation of the new technology and to evaluate the impact of this technology should be put in place. A strict time limit for the use of such apps should be pre-announced and enforced. 

We remind member states that our very own organization hosts important frameworks and conventions that ensure the safeguarding of individual rights and freedoms while allowing for efficient technological use, including but not limited to the ECHR, the GDPR, Convention 108 and the modernized Convention 108+. Social trust regarding the use of such technologies can only be established when such safeguarding of the protection of fundamental rights are in place. 

No country or individual should have to choose between the benefits of such technological advances and the protection of fundamental rights; both can be achieved simultaneously. Let us all rise to this challenge. 

Strasbourg, 12.05.2020