Portugal rejects tech plan for ‘contact tracing’ of citizens during pandemic

Portugal will not be sanctioning Brussels’ plan to allow Member States to spy on their citizens in lockdown (click here).

The measure is unconstitutional, explains Público – stressing that both President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and prime minister António Costa are in agreement over this.

Mr Costa is described as having “many doubts” on the constitutionality of ‘contact tracing’ (used widely by Asian governments), while President Marcelo has said that if anything like this was to be taken up it would have to be dependent on considered opinions by Constitutional Court judges and the Ombudsman “and would always have to be thought in a way to guarantee the privacy of citizens”.

As multiple mainstream media sources have warned, ‘contact tracing’ could be the thin end of the wedge, allowing States to start putting citizens under permanent increased surveillance.

Specialists at yesterday’s technical meeting with politicians at medicines authority Infarmed said, in their opinion, the plan to use technologies to track infected people – as has been happening in other countries – is effective, adds Público – but the final decision rested with political leaders.

President Marcelo recalled, for instance, the Constitutional Court has even rejected the use of mobile phone metadata in the combat of terrorism.

However, the meeting did appear to leave the option open for ‘other uses of data from mobile phone operators’, as long as it remains anonymous and ‘aggregate’ – allowing authorities simply to get an idea of the behaviour of populations in a determined region.

Explained a source: “Georeferencing isn’t a bogeyman until privacy is interferred with. There is a wide margin of use for this data which can be very useful when done on an autonomous basis”.

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