Mobile phone tracking: Breach of privacy or necessary precaution?

Coronavirus

Mobile phone tracking: Breach of privacy or necessary precaution?

25. 03. 2020 16:42

UPDATE:  MPs approved the draft that gives the Public Health Authority (UVZ) access to data from mobile operators subject to telecommunications secrecy, meaning those helping to track the location and movement of the mobile phone. Metadata, including keeping track of who was talking to whom and messages will not be included.

The Office of Deputy Prime Minister for Investment and Informatisation has drawn up a legislative framework that will enable the office to collect mobile phone localisation data to track people with the new coronavirus and identify other possibly infected people, said Deputy Prime Minister for Investment and Informatisation Veronika Remišová (For the People). This step results from a measure adopted by the central crisis management team on Monday, allowing the state to make use of mobile-network providers' localisation services.

The measure, however, triggered a strong wave of criticism from opposition members of the parliament. Former prime minister and parliamentary Vice-chairman Peter Pellegrini (Smer-SD) called the bill a major intervention in people's privacy, and proposed to introduce such a measure only if the highest-level state of emergency is declared in the country. Smer-SD chair Róbert Fico maintains that the bill in question is an egregious breach of basic human rights and freedoms.

In response, Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (For the People) said she's aware of the sensitivity of collecting mobile phone location data for the tracking of people infected with the new coronavirus, but that public health matters more. She explained that the data will be used only to track those who don't heed the obligation to stay in quarantine. According to her, data protection isn't absolute. "The right to life is absolute," she stressed. She promised that the law, stipulated to be in force only until the end of this year, will in no way be misused in the future. In addition, the data will only be available to the Public Health Authority for a limited time, she added.

Romana Grajcarová, Photo: Flickr/CAFNR

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