ELI Digital Law Lunch Talks


On 29 April 2020 the ELI Digital Law SIG launched its new Digital Lunch Talk series. In the first lunch meeting held via Zoom, SIG Chairs Christoph Busch and Alberto De Franceschi welcomed Professor Oreste Pollicino from Bocconi Law School, Milan, for a talk on ‘COVID-19 Tracking Apps: Balancing Public Health and Data Protection’.

Currently, many countries in Europe and beyond are considering the deployment of contact tracing apps to identify people that have been in contact with an infected person. As Professor Pollicino explained, these apps raise a number of questions regarding the right balance between public health and privacy concerns. Should the system be centralised or decentralised? Should the apps be voluntary or mandatory? What is the role of BigTech companies which provide the necessary application programming interfaces? How should one ensure that these apps do not turn into instruments of surveillance? And should there be a common European solution in order to facilitate cross-border mobility within the European Union?

In his talk, Professor Pollicino addressed these questions and in doing so provided a very insightful comparative analysis. He also explained the conditions under which COVID-19 apps could be compatible with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Professor Pollicino for his part is in favor of a dynamic, risk-based approach that goes beyond the binary logic of anonymous and non-anonymous data. After the talk, the 45 participants from across Europe and the United States exchanged their views on different national approaches to contact tracing and quarantine enforcement via apps. ‘This was really a virtual laboratory of comparative law in action’, Professor Pollicino concluded.

The series of lunch talks will continue over the next few months with fortnightly talks on current issues in law and technology. More details will be provided soon.