What kind of data the Slovak government wants to collect on people

It probably does not have the technology to determine exact location.

The government wants to track geolocation data from people's phones to contain the epidemic. The government wants to track geolocation data from people's phones to contain the epidemic. (Source: AP/SITA)

The government wants to use sensitive data from telecom operators to find out with whom the people who have developed the COVID-19 disease were meeting and whether they are following home quarantine.

Only the police and secret services have had access to this kind of data so far, to help them map serious crimes.

Even they can't just simply look at the data anytime on a computer screen in real time. To access it, they needed court authorisation, and only then telecom operators gave them the data, for instance on a CD.

On Tuesday, the government passed and submitted for a short-tracked legislative procedure an amendment to the law on electronic communications, based on which the Public Health Office will gain access to data about the localisation of mobile phones, for the purposes of containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

This changes nothing about the powers of the secret services and the police. They will still need court authorisation to access data.

If the parliament passes the law, it will become effective as early as this week.

Taiwan sends texts to people

"The data can be made accessible to the Public Health Office in the scope necessary for the identification of natural persons in the interest of protection of life and health," the amendment reads. It is not clear if the authorities will have access to the data in real time.

For now, the law only allows the authorities to access and analyse the data until December 31, 2020. The parliament can later prolong the expiration of the law.

The Justice Ministry, now led by Mária Kolíková of junior coalition Za Ľudí party, wrote in the reasoning of the law that it was inspired by Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, where the governments tracked the movement of people in real time based on telecom operator data, to prevent the infection from spreading.

It is not clear how Slovakia wants to use the data.

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