EU: Coronavirus-tracking apps must not use personal location data

European Union countries using mobile apps to contain the spread of the coronavirus should ensure such apps comply with the bloc's privacy rules and avoid using personalised location data, the bloc's executive Commission said on Thursday.

The recommendations are part of a unified European approach on using technology to combat COVID-19 and come after several EU countries rolled out a variety of apps, triggering criticism from data privacy activists.

"Strong privacy safeguards are a pre-requisite for the uptake of these apps, and therefore their usefulness," European digital chief Thierry Breton said in a statement.

The Commission said the mobile apps should be approved by public health authorities, installed voluntarily and deleted once they are not needed and should also be based on anonymised data.

"Location data is not necessary nor recommended for the purpose of contact tracing apps, as their goal is not to follow the movements of individuals or to enforce prescriptions," the Commission document said, citing security and privacy risks.