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“A systematic classification of a population according to a health criterion is dangerous”

“In the digital age and big data, the use of technology and data seems inevitable and fundamental to fight against a virus like Covid-19 and to make the crisis as short as possible. “(Photo: control of the application of traffic rules during the cornavirus, March 16, 2020, in Menton, border post between Italy and France.) DPA / Photononstop

Grandstand. Since March 17, 2020, anyone on French territory must be able to justify the reason for their departure, and since March 24, the time at which they left their home. The government is now considering massive control of French health data, notably through backtracking practices that identify not only people with Covid-19, but also those in contact with them.

This massive control would amount to a real digital strategy for identifying people because of their health data. Health data has been the subject of particularly reinforced protection since the creation of legal texts relating to the protection of privacy and personal data by being classified as so-called “sensitive” data from the outset.

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This protection in the texts, necessary in particular for any individual suffering from a pathology, to be able to live a normal life, is illustrated by the prohibition of any processing of health data relating to an identified or identifiable person, and their marketing, according to Article 9 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The temptation to exploit citizens' health data

The GDPR does, however, provide some exceptions to this ban, which could serve as the basis for this digital strategy of identifying people. Indeed, it provides that the processing of personal health data may be authorized if the processing is necessary for reasons of public interest provided that the rule of law providing for this processing is proportionate to the objective pursued, respects the essence the right to data protection and provides for appropriate and specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights and interests of the data subject (Article 9.2).

This obligation is notably recalled in a press release from the European Data Protection Committee of March 19, 2020 on “Declaration on the processing of personal data in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic”. The temptation to exploit citizens' health data is great in times of health crises like ours, especially given the technological tools available in 2020.

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China is believed to have contained much of the virus by systematically monitoring its citizens' mobile data, including forcing people to specify their temperature and health status, using video surveillance cameras to track down who might have been with them. be in touch. Applications could even have been used to check the proximity of these people, with infected people. Chinese citizens would now be classified according to three colors indicating their risk of contamination: red, yellow and green.

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