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Government NewTech in the fight against the coronavirus

From 8 March 2020, healthy persons who have been in contact with persons with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shall be subject to mandatory quarantine or epidemiological surveillance for a period of 14 days if the health inspection authorities so decide.

A person who does not submit to quarantine and who is suspected or diagnosed with a particularly dangerous and highly contagious disease that poses a direct threat to the health or life of others may be subject to a direct coercive measure of restraint, immobilisation or the forced administration of drugs.

How to go through quarantine on a voluntary basis, complying with legal and sanitary requirements so that it is not too burdensome?

The Ministry of Digital Affairs responds with the “Home Quarantine” application. Any person under home quarantine may wish to be included in the quarantine monitoring with the use of that application. The application is available for both iOS and Android phones.

How does it work?

The user downloads the application and requests access; in turn, the user receives a return text message with information that it has been added to the database. The user should then take a so-called reference photo, to which subsequent frames with the face will be compared. Quarantine in the application is carried out according to the following rules:

  1. confirmation of being in the declared location – the GPS location is automatically checked and for the task to be performed correctly, the user must be within 100 m of the declared location,
  2. taking a selfie at the declared location no later than 20 minutes after receiving a text with the task; after that time, the person will receive a reminder message with a specified task completion time.

Failure to complete a task, an incompatible image or an attempted fraud (e.g. using software to change latitude and longitude) is automatically forwarded to the relevant services. The application contains mechanisms to prevent fraud, such as not being able to upload an image from a camera roll or using fake camera tools. In addition, the image contains a geographic coordinate marker and a timestamp. The system also has protection against the use of fake gps applications.

A user account is valid for 14 calendar days from the first activation unless circumstances occur during this period, causing the quarantine to end. During this time, the user can send a form to MOPS [social welfare centre] indicating demand for food, medicine or psychological support. Such a request is verified by governors and the time of its delivery depends on the competent services. Government communications make it clear that this possibility is available in “justified situations.”

In case of symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the user is obliged to immediately notify the relevant services using the functionalities available in the application.

Are there any risks associated with using the application?

The government has used NewTech solutions to relieve the police, whose duties seem to be multiplying every day in the face of pandemic and quarantine. This quarantine option is also certainly more convenient for users who do not have to deal with unannounced checks by police officers.

The controller of personal data is the Minister of Justice. Mostly, we do not provide our data at the time of registration in the application – the data are already in the government database by filling in the so-called location card when crossing the Polish border (from 27 March 2020 also Poles working in the Czech Republic or Germany and commuting to work on a regular basis, every day or every week will be subject to mandatory quarantine – so far they were exempted from quarantine).

  • This is how a location card looks like: [link

The data from the location card is imported into the Home Quarantine system. The application directly collects only data from photographs – the image of the user. What is important is that the data is not analysed by other persons, but with the use of technology and methodology of comparing the image from subsequent photos to the first – the reference one.

The controller stores personal data for 6 years from the moment the application is deactivated. This is the limitation period for claims under Article 118 of the Civil Code. Data is not processed for marketing purposes.

The objectives and methods of operation of the application resulting from the terms and conditions of the application available at https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/kwarantanna-domowa, as well as the functioning of the application in practice (about which there is a lot of discussion on the Internet) indicate that the application does not pose users with threats typical for cyberspace.

Does NewTech in the public sector make sense?

The potential of the application is enormous – not only in times of pandemic. In the present reality, we have dozens of examples of how effective business distribution tools are smartphone apps. The state is also moving its omnipotence to NewTech, which should also be a green light for entrepreneurs to further maximise the digitisation of their businesses – without fear of a lack of coherent connection to the public sector. It is important that everything takes place in accordance with the law of art.

Prepared by:

Beata Bieniek-Wiera, attorney-at-law 

Dominika Bielecka trainee attorney-at-law

 

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