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Industry group to develop framework for secure track and trace

ETSI’s Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection aims to enable developers to build interoperable mobile apps for proximity detection and anonymous identification.

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Tracing apps help to break Covid-19 transmission chains
Tracing apps help to break Covid-19 transmission chains

European standards organisation, ETSI, has launched an industry specification group in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

 

Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection (ISG E4P) aims to provide a standardisation framework that will enable developers to build interoperable mobile apps for proximity detection and anonymous identification to help break Covid-19 transmission chains.

 

Track and trace apps

 

With more than 70 per cent of Europeans owning a smartphone, this provides a valuable platform for tracing infection chains. A number of contact tracing applications are already in use by governments and organisations that alert individuals when they have been at risk of exposure to others who have already tested positively for the virus.

 

The primary challenge is collecting, processing and acting on information about citizens’ proximity at scale, potentially representing tens or hundreds of millions of people. This must also be achieved without compromising users’ anonymity and privacy, and while safeguarding them against exposure to potential cyber-attacks.

 

ETSI stated that the standardisation framework will enable the development of interoperable systems to automatically trace and inform potentially infected users in addition to manual notification methods, whilst preserving users’ privacy and complying with relevant data protection regulation.

“We are committed to supporting an international development community with a robust standardisation framework that allows rapid, accurate and reliable solutions while winning the trust of the population at large."

As well as accelerating the development of smartphone-based apps to help with the essential breaking of transmission chains, such a pan-European standardisation framework should enable interoperability between different proximity tracing and alert systems.

 

“By their nature smartphones are highly personal devices, carrying large amounts of data about individuals. In ETSI we are committed to support an international development community with a robust standardisation framework that allows rapid, accurate and reliable solutions while winning the trust of the population at large”, said ETSI director-general Luis Jorge Romero.

 

Work of the new ETSI E4P group considers the proposed EC recommendation on a common union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the Covid-19 crisis, in particular for mobile applications and the use of anonymised mobility data.

 

It also reflects the EC Communication on Guidance on Apps supporting the fight against Covid-19 pandemic in relation to data protection.

 

The new group already comprises more than 10 organisations drawn from global telco operators, vendors and research centres from various activity sectors. ETSI anticipates many more players joining the group in the near future.

 

Participation in ETSI’s technical bodies is normally restricted to the organisation’s membership but non-members are able to contribute to ETSI activities through industry specification groups such as E4P, Partnership Projects and Open Source Groups.

 

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