Table of contents:

What does the BOE say about geolocation in quarantine?
What does the BOE say about geolocation in quarantine?

Among the measures to stop the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 in Spain has been authorized since BOE (Official State Gazette) population control during quarantine through mobile phone location, although with a geolocation systemless exhaustive than that used in China or South Korea.

It is a measure that raises suspicions regarding the privacy of citizens, even though we are in an exceptional situation. In any case, and according to the text published in the BOE, access to geolocation will be limited.

Specifically, this issue is de alt with in BOE 86 of March 28, 2020 (BOE-A-2020-4162), within the Order SND/297/2020 of the Ministry of He alth, so we must refer to what the text says.

And, actually, we are talking about two methods for geolocation: a mobile app, initially optional installation, and a Study using operator networks, from which no user with a mobile phone can escape.

An app with limited geolocation

The first aspect developed by the BOE is the creation of an application for smartphones, which will have to be carried out by the Secretary of State for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence, although it is to be imagined that it will be entrusted to a specialized company (an Indra-type consultancy).

Specifically, this is what the BOE says:

"[…] urgent development and operation of a computer application to support the management of the he alth crisis caused by COVID-19."

At first, it seems that it is a native application (not web), which should provide information and recommendations about the coronavirus, allow a basic diagnosis in quarantine and estimate the chances that the user has COVID-19.

In addition, a bot will also be created to provide information on WhatsApp, through a standard conversation, similar to the bot on the coronavirus that the WHO has launched on WhatsApp.

Regarding geolocation, this is what it says:

"The application will allow the geolocation of the user for the sole purpose of verifying that he is in the autonomous community in which he declares to be."

That is to say, it will not be controlled exactly where each person is. However, that is the operation provided for in the BOE, but in practice accessing the GPS of mobile phones offers a precision of a few meters.

In reality, it will be the developers who must treat geolocation data appropriately, so that no other information is recorded regardless of whether the user is in the autonomous community that has been indicated.

On those responsible for personal details, this explains the Official State Gazette:

"The person responsible for the treatment will be the Ministry of He alth and the person in charge of thetreatment and owner of the application will be the General Secretariat of Digital Administration."

Making a slightly more skeptical analysis, we can see a risk for privacy, but not very high Even though use is made of the geolocation different from the one declared, we are not talking about something very different from the control of the location of Facebook, or the location history of Google.

Of course the data would be in the hands of the Government, but in principle installing the application seems to be optional.

A very different model from China, which created an app to cross-check the data of possible infected, and sent suspects to quarantine at home.

In the Asian country the application was mandatory, having to scan the generated QR code to access many areas (workplaces, study centers, government buildings…)

Added mobility study

What does the BOE say about geolocation in quarantine?
What does the BOE say about geolocation in quarantine?

The second method contemplated by the BOE is much more aggressive, and allows to know the geolocation of users before and during the quarantine Basically, seems to be based on the controversial INE mobility study that had been approved before knowing anything about the coronavirus.

Telecommunications operators with mobile antennas (Movistar, Vodafone, Orange and Grupo MásMóvil) will be asked to provide the position of the telephones connected to their antennas.

According to the BOE, this is what is sought:

"The aim is to have real information on the mobility of people in the days before and during confinement. The objective is to understand population movements."

Note that this information has always been available, and operators have provided it in the past, primarily to respond to court orders.

That is, mobile phone companies keep a record of the antennas to which we connect, which offer a more or less geolocation Accurate depending on the area. In cities, with many antennas, it is quite accurate, but in rural areas not so much.

The following excerpt from the BOE is very relevant:

"[…] through the cross-checking of data from mobile operators, in an aggregated and anonymous manner, the analysis of the mobility of people in the days before and during confinement."

That is, the locations would be analyzed together, and without identifying specific individuals. Therefore, it would not be sought to monitor compliance with the quarantine individually, nor to impose fines, just to have a complete vision of the whole.

To give an example, it could be used to analyze how the coronavirus spread After the suspension of classes was decreed in the Community of Madrid News broke of people moving to second homes in other communities, potentially spreading the disease.

Using the geolocation of the phones, this could be better verified and quantified, with exact figures, since relying on citizen observations is not very reliable.

Of course, the analysis of movements during the quarantine could indicate areas with strange movements, opening the possibility of sending security forces security to control those populations where it is suspected that the confinement is not being respected.

Of course, this data could affect the privacy of citizens depending on how they are used, but what the BOE explains shouldn't worry us too much.

In summary, controlling the geolocation of quarantined phones does not seem very problematic, and instead provides a valuable tool in these moments when giving up a little of our privacy could save many lives.

What do you think of the use of geolocation in quarantine? Do you think it is acceptable to contain the growth of the coronavirus?

Popular topic