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5 European digital ministers argue for digital sovereignty amidst COVID-19, call out Big Tech for ‘imposing standards’

contact tracing, app, virus

Asserting "digital sovereignty" as "the basis for Europe's sustainable competitiveness", digital affairs ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal released a statement on May 26 that castigated "digital global players" for "imposing technical standards" on Europe. Despite not naming Apple and Google, it is obvious that the statement takes aim at the companies' contact tracing API. CGTN first reported on the statement. Apple and Google had revealed that 22 countries so far have received access to the API in a statement on May 20. The European Parliament also passed a resolution on April 17 that mandated transparency, decentralisation, sunset clauses, and data minimisation as principles for contact tracing apps to adhere to. Reading between the lines "Of course, contact tracing is only one of a number of digital and analogue solutions. Digital tools, as integrated and complementary measures, are part of an overall medical strategy to fight the virus.": This suggests that EU member states consider digital contact tracing as one of the many tools to fight the pandemic, not the primary one. The statement mentions country-specific contexts at least twice, and the need for "democratically elected Governments" to "evaluate and judge it [digital technologies] both acceptable for our citizens and compliant with our European values". The ministers are thus emphasising that they have the democratic authority and the knowledge to decide what is best for their citizens, in a way that global tech players do not. Coupled with repeated stress on "European values" and "shared principles" and stress…

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