It appears that COVID-19 will not go away any time soon. As there is currently no known cure or vaccine against it, countries have to find other ways to prevent and mitigate the spread of this infectious disease. Many countries have turned to electronic measures to provide general information and advice on COVID-19, allow people to check symptoms, trace contacts and alert people who have been in proximity to an infected person, identify “hot spots,” and track compliance with confinement measures and stay-at-home orders.
The Global Legal Research Directorate (GLRD) of the Law Library of Congress recently completed research on the kind of electronic measures countries around the globe are employing to fight the spread of COVID-19 and their potential privacy and data protection implications. We are excited to share with you the report that resulted from this research, Regulating Electronic Means to Fight the Spread of COVID-19. The report covers 23 selected jurisdictions, namely Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, England, France, Iceland, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, the Russian Federation, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the European Union (EU).
The surveys found that dedicated coronavirus apps that are downloaded to an individual’s mobile phone (particularly contact tracing apps), the use of anonymized mobility data, and creating electronic databases were the most common electronic measures. Whereas the EU recommends the use of voluntary apps because of the “high degree of intrusiveness” of mandatory apps, some countries take a different approach and require installing an app for people who enter the country from abroad, people who return to work, or people who are ordered to quarantine.
However, these electronic measures also raise privacy and data protection concerns, in particular as they relate to sensitive health data. The surveys discuss the different approaches countries have taken to ensure compliance with privacy and data protection regulations, such as conducting rights impact assessments before the measures were deployed or having data protection agencies conduct an assessment after deployment.
The map below shows which jurisdictions have adopted COVID-19 contact tracing apps and the technologies they use.
We invite you to review the information provided in our report. You can also browse the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports pages for additional reports from the Law Library. For COVID-19 governmental updates, see our Coronavirus Resource Guide, which is regularly updated. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).