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Press Release: EDRi calls for fundamental rights-based responses to COVID-19

By EDRi · April 1, 2020

In a recent statement released on 20 March 2020, European Digital Rights (EDRi) calls on the Member States and institutions of the European Union (EU) to ensure that, while developing public health measures to tackle COVID-19, they:

  • Strictly uphold fundamental rights;
  • Protect data for now and the future;
  • Limit the purpose of data for COVID-19 crisis only;
  • Implement exceptional measures for the duration of the crisis only;
  • Condemn racism and discrimination;
  • Defend freedom of expression and information.

EDRi’s Head of Policy, Diego Naranjo, explains that:

EDRi supports necessary, proportionate measures, fully in line with national and international human rights and data protection and privacy legislation, taken in order to tackle the COVID – 19 global pandemic. These measures must not, however, set a precedent for rolling back the fundamental rights obligations enshrined in European law.

EDRi recognises that Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease poses a global public health challenge of unprecedented proportions. The use of good-quality data can support the development of evidence-based responses. However, we are witnessing a surge of emergency-related policy initiatives, some of them risking the abuse of sensitive personal data in an attempt to safeguard public health. When acting to address such a crisis, measures must comply with international human rights law and cannot lead to disproportionate and unnecessary actions. It is also vital that measures are not extended once we are no longer in a state of emergency.

EDRi’s Executive Director, Claire Fernandez, emphasises that:

In times of crisis, our authorities and communities must show responsibility, resilience, solidarity, and offer support to healthcare systems in order to protect our lives. States’ emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic must be proportionate, however, and be re-evaluated at specified intervals. By doing this, states will prevent the normalisation of rights-limiting measures, scope creep, data retention or enhanced surveillance that will otherwise be harmful long after the impacts of the pandemic have been managed.

In these times of pandemic and emergency measures, EDRi expresses solidarity towards collective protection and support for our health systems. We will continue monitoring and denouncing abuses of human rights in times when people are particularly vulnerable.

Read full statement: EDRi calls for fundamental rights-based responses to COVID-19:

EDRi Members and Observers’ Responses to COVID-19:

Joint civil society statement – “States use of digital surveillance technologies to fight pandemic must respect human rights.”

noyb – Active overview of projects using personal data to combat SARS-CoV-2.

Access Now – “Protect digital rights, promote public health: toward a better coronavirus response.”

Article 19 – “Coronavirus: New ARTICLE 19 briefing on tackling misinformation.”

Bits of Freedom – “Privacy is geen absoluut recht, maar wel een noodzaak.”

Defesa dos Dereitos Digitais (D3) – ” A pandemia COVID19 e os direitos digitais.”

Digitalcourage – “Coronavirus: Tipps fürs Onlineleben und Grundrechtsfragen.”

Digitale Gesellschaft – “Menschenrechte gelten nicht nur in „guten“ Zeiten.”

EFF – “EFF and COVID-19: Protecting Openness, Security, and Civil Liberties.” – “Digital rights implications of the COVID-19 crisis.”

GFF – “Corona und Grundrechte: Fragen und Antworten.”

Hermes Center – “Il Centro Hermes chiede al governo una risposta all’emergenza COVID-19 nel pieno rispetto dei diritti umani.”

Homo Digitalis – “Homo Digitalis για την πανδημία του Κορωνοϊού.”

noyb – “Data protection in times of corona: not a question of if, but of how.”

Open Rights Group – “In the Coronavirus crisis, privacy will be compromised—but our right to know must not be.”

Panoptykon – “Wolność i prywatność w dobie koronawirusa.”

Privacy International – “Extraordinary powers need extraordinary protections.”

SHARE Foundation – “Digitalna prava, pandemija i Balkan.”