European Commission publishes guidance on interoperable tracing apps as connectivity is about the be restored

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On 13 May, the European Commission has published a common approach for safe and efficient mobile tracing apps across the EU. The communication builds on the previous communications on COVID-19 tracing apps (including on data protection), and is this time focused on the interoperability of the applications between different Member States of the EU. This has become increasingly relevant as the Commission also published its Tourism and Transport Package, which aims at gradually re-establishing the free movement of persons in the EU. The monitoring of the spread of the virus via mobile phones is still nationally oriented, but as soon as people start travelling again, it will be important that the apps become interoperable to keep the epidemiological situation under control.

The guidelines on cross-border interoperability are common and general principles aiming at ensuring that tracing apps can communicate with each other when required, so citizens can report a positive test or receive an alert, wherever they are in the EU and whatever app they are using. Interoperable apps will facilitate the tracing of cross-border infection chains and can thereby support exit strategies and the restoration of the freedom of movement. The Commission is working with Member States on a privacy preserving interoperability protocol. If one Member State’s app is to work in another Member State, some encrypted data will be shared with the server processing data collected by the app in that Member State. Responding to concerns of many citizens, the Commission emphasized that use of the app should be voluntary and the app should be fully compliant with the EU data protection rules.

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