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Parliamentary questions
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10 July 2020
 E-002050/2020
Answer given by Mr Breton
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-002050/2020

Within the framework of Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats to health, the Commission is obliged to ensure coordination and information exchange between the different mechanisms and structures whose activities are relevant for the preparedness and response planning, monitoring and combating serious cross-border threats to health, such as the current pandemic.

The Commission has therefore asked telecommunication operators to voluntarily share anonymised and aggregated mobile phone location data with its Joint Research Center (JRC). The JRC will analyse this data to understand the dynamics and propagation of COVID-19 and quantify the impact of social distancing measures on mobility, and to feed epidemiological model, which can help to overcome the crisis.

No personal data will be shared with the Commission or third parties and the data will not allow any tracking of individuals. The data will be deleted as soon as the current emergency ends.

Similar initiatives have been taken by a number of Member States. The Commission is working together with them in the context of the eHealth network to exchange practices and work towards a common approach for handling anonymised and aggregated mobility data. This is in line with Commission Recommendation of 8 April 2020 on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis.

The guidelines of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) of 21 April 2020 emphasise that both the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive contain specific provisions allowing for the use of anonymous or personal data to support public authorities at both national and EU level in their efforts to monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19(1).

The JRC’s analysis uses only anonymised telecommunications location data in an aggregated form, which falls outside the scope of European data protection rules as confirmed by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). The Commission will have in place appropriate safeguards in order to ensure re-identification of individuals is excluded.

(1)https://edpb.europa.eu/news/news/2020/european-data-protection-board-twenty-third-plenary-session-edpb-adopts-further-covid_en
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