EOSC Funding: Electronic Specifier

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30 Jun 2020

EOSC Funding: Electronic Specifier

As privacy concerns grow over contact-tracing app technology, a new monitoring system funded under the European Open Science Cloud initiative will launch on 10th July that allows users with strong symptoms of coronavirus to take full ownership of their personal data while participating in national track-and-trace schemes.

The EOSC Secretariat - an initiative that has approved €1,235,000 in emergency funding for 32 projects to specifically tackle the COVID-19 pandemic - is supporting a new app that will improve contact tracing while simultaneously maintaining privacy.

Concerns that digital tracing systems for COVID-19 could become ‘back doors’ to mass surveillance have already mounted, with academics from 26 countries issuing a warning that contact-tracing apps could hamper trust.

Confirming you have been infected with coronavirus requires personal data to be submitted, recorded, exchanged and stored, with some apps like the UK Government’s NHSX indicating that it may be stored and used for future research purposes.

But with backing as part of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) - an initiative changing the way European research is conducted through ‘Open Science’ where researchers are quickly developing instant diagnoses for major diseases and tackling climate change - a small research team has been able to respond rapidly to the pandemic and develop a contact-tracing app in the space of a few months.

Described by its creators as less invasive to your personal data than Alexa, the application allows users with strong symptoms of coronavirus to take full ownership of their personal data while track-and-tracing. The goal of the project is build up a picture of local infection clusters so that targeted regions can be restricted rather than having a blanket ban.

Developed by brothers Paul and Patrick Byrnes, the app invites users to participate via an ‘opt-in’ facility, which can be removed or deleted at any time, and will be available to download on 10th July 2020 on iOS, Android and Apple.