Data protection experts publish principles for contact-tracing app

ICCL teams up with experts for framework for State’s proposed app to stop Covid-19

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has teamed up with data protection experts to publish a framework for the development of a contract-tracing app to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The ICCL, together with data protection advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland, and a number of scientists and academics, have collaborated on the framework which sets out nine principles that should be followed.

Publication comes as researchers from the Science Foundation Ireland-supported CONNECT centre, were this week drafted in to conduct an independent assessment of the State's Covid-19 contact tracing app.

The Health Service Executive (HSE), which is working with Waterford company NearForm on the solution, originally scheduled it to be launched in early April. However, it has been pushed back a number of times due to privacy concerns and technical issues, including bluetooth accuracy.


"While we live in extraordinary times, we must still ensure that the Irish Government does not release or partner on technology that will diminish human right," said ICCL executive director Liam Herrick.

“In order for the Government to satisfy its human rights and privacy obligations regarding pandemic surveillance technology, it must ensure these nine principles are adhered to,” he added.

According to the framework, any app developed should have a clear and limited purpose to ensure there is no opportunity of abuse or so-called “mission creep,” where the objectives of a project expand beyond the original goal.

The Government should also produce explicit evidence that any app built is both necessary, and effective in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

In addition, any technology developed should be wholly transparent about what data is collected, must be strictly time-limited and allow for the deletion of data immediately after it is no longer required.

The Government is also called upon to publish the source code and design spec of thepropsed app so that it can be determined if data is adequately protected.

"Sound digital policy principles require that the HSE consult with a broad range of actors including data protection, academic experts, and end users in order to foster public trust and confidence. Without the public's trust and buy-in, this app will not be effective," said Prof Eugenia Siapera, head of school, information and communications studies, UCD.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist