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European operators share data in fight against coronavirus

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Several European telcos are sharing data, in line with privacy laws, to help authorities manage the response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Austria’s A1 is working with Graz University spin-off Invenium to provide movement analysis calculated from anonymised data using algorithms.

The data is being used to visualise the movements of groups of people in Invenium’s motion analysis application. The technology is normally used to see, for example, where tourists come from and how they move from attraction to attraction but is now being applied to tackling the pandemic.

A1 noted that the solution is fully GDPR-compliant and approved by national certification provider TÜV.

“It is not possible to draw conclusions about individual persons through these analyses; only movement flows can be analysed in groups of 20,“ the company said in a statement (translated). "For example, it couldn’t be stated that three people moved from A to B, only that up to 20 people or between 21 and 40 people did so.

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A1 added that this technology is offered by a large number of companies across Europe and has been tried and tested for years. 

A1 provides these analyses to relevant government agencies in times of crisis for the benefit of the general public,” the statement added.

GDPR

Reuters reports that anonymised data donated by Deutsche Telekom is helping health officials understand whether people are complying with advice to stay at home and limit social contact.

Telecom Italia, Vodafone and WindTre have offered Italian authorities anonymised, aggregated data to monitor people’s movements, reports say.

Operators are keen to stress legal compliance but on Twitter, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said that “GDPR does not inhibit use of data for coronavirus response.

GDPR has a clause excepting work in the overwhelming public interest. No one should constrain work on responding to coronavirus due to data protection laws.”

He added: “We are all having to give up some of our liberties; rights under GDPR have always been balanced against other public interests.”