National Ethics Council fails apps for tracing to COVID-19

In Europe, some countries already offer COVID-19 tracing apps to their citizens. In Portugal, the app may be launched in a few days, but the project for the COVID-19 tracking application is currently being reviewed.

On the other hand, the National Ethics Council fails the apps for tracing to COVID-19.


The National Council of Ethics published today an opinion chumba as apps para tracing at COVID-19. According to the document “The technological solutions that are under development seek to respond to two types of tracking, group and individual.

In the first, specific population groups are targeted, crossing data on geographical location, health, certain comorbidities and vulnerabilities. In the second, mechanisms are set up to signal each individual who has a positive test for COVID-19 or suspicious symptoms and those who have been in contact with or are close to him ”

Apps for contact tracing to COVID-19! CNECV says no …

  • Mobile digital applications for controlling the transmission chains of COVID-19, as described in its present characteristics, cannot be considered an alternative public health strategy to conventional national pandemic control processes, first of all because its use is not generalizable to the entire population or to the percentage of it that makes it possible to ensure sanitary efficacy, and its complementary use should be considered in strategies for controlling infection transmission.
  • Generalize the use of mobile digital applications as a national strategy to control the transmission of infection in the community can associate perverse effects, move away from the planning of health interventions the social groups where different vulnerabilities are recognized, namely those who are not carriers of technologically advanced equipment or capable of making them the intended use for sanitary purposes. ”
  • Digital mobile applications are interdependent with the characteristics of mobile phones, which accentuates the inequalities associated with low digital literacy and the economic and social condition of citizens, facts that constitute a fundamental ethical objection to recommend its mandatory use. Therefore, protection must be guaranteed against any kind of social pressure, namely from public authorities, which conditions citizens to adopt mobile contact tracking applications, making them responsible for a global public health strategy, which would always be disproportionate to that end.

National Ethics Council fails apps for tracing to COVID-19

  • In certain community contexts, mobile applications for tracking contacts can, however, be useful to protect individual health, since they inform the carrier of the probability of being infected. In case there is an individual, free and voluntary option to use a mobile phone with a contact tracking signaling application, there will be no ethical objection. However, this option reinforces the responsibility of the citizen holding the mobile phone to adopt appropriate behavior, whenever he is notified of close and lasting contact with someone infected, and until the virus is confirmed or excluded.
  • Digital mobile applications, including those adopted by the voluntary decision of each citizen, must incorporate ethical principles in the development of the technological solution (“ethics by design”) and be scrutinized as to the soundness of the sanitary utility criteria, and their implementation must be accompanied by careful ethical consideration, taking into account the inherent risks when there is centralized collection of sensitive personal information data. In this domain, the State has the duty to protect the privacy reserve of private life and the personal information of citizens and is obliged to promote a social context of maximizing justice, equity, non-discrimination and mitigation of vulnerabilities.
  • Transparency and reliability in the governance of personal data, safeguarding its good use, in the specific case of mobile applications for geolocation and tracing, can have a significant impact on the way citizens relate to the State. In its regulation, citizens must identify criteria for security, soundness, resilience and reliability, and clear audit, traceability and accountability processes, which are instrumental in relying on proposals that, in a sensitive manner, interfere with their privacy.

The document can be obtained on here as well as the statements of Counselor Ana Sofia Carvalho.

What is your opinion about the COVID-19 tracing apps?