Spanish government considering use of mobile phones to track the whereabouts of coronavirus carriers

As the infection curve begins to flatten, the Spanish authorities are considering new ways to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic during what has been referred to as “the descaling phase”, once the the full lockdown is eased. One of the methods they are contemplating is to monitor the whereabouts of people carrying the coronavirus by means of their mobile phone, a system that has proven successful in Asian countries such as South Korea and, in particular, Singapore.

On Monday Spain’s Justice Minister, Juan Carlos Campos, said he couldn’t rule out the use of mobile phones’ geolocation data coupled with more sophisticated methods, such as the activation of bluetooth services. During a press conference held in Madrid’s La Moncloa palace, Campo stated that this is one of the measures “being considered” because in a public health crisis the usual restrictions and data protection rules shouldn’t take precedence.

“[Spain’s] Data Protection Agency has said that in a situation like this it wouldn’t constitute a breach [of privacy] and we feel it is reasonable to think that if someone has tested positive and they refuse [to self-isolate], they ought to be monitored somehow”, Campo said accompanied by the Spanish Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska.

Campo also mentioned the possibility of forcing people who have tested positive to remain in isolation centres which the authorities might set up for mild or asymptomatic cases in hotels and public facilities. Along the same lines as Marlaska on Sunday, Camp was emphatic that “the state of emergency does not curtail the rule of law and, in cases like this, we would request the necessary reports before taking any action”.