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(Pocket-lint) - As the ongoing global health situation evolves and unfolds further, many countries, including the UK, are discussing plans to release apps to help track the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads.

These smartphone apps could trace people's contact with other app users via Bluetooth, and ask them to volunteer any symptoms they might experience, in order to build a sense of who might be likely to have contracted the virus, or who is at risk of doing so based on their behaviour.

Now, the EU has published a lengthy set of draft guidelines for member states to use when designing or releasing their apps - guidelines that countries like the UK who aren't under the EU's jurisdiction have indicated they'll follow anyway. 

One of the key concerns surrounding these apps is privacy and data management, which is likely why the rules concentrate on that at length. This includes arguments that the apps might not need people's phone numbers, which had concerned some observers, for example.

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The rules also argue that the apps should automatically be deactivated, with all stored personal data expunged, when they are no longer needed. It'll be interesting to observe whether that ends up happening, too. 

Indeed, it's also interesting to see that the EU feels location data, which some people might assume would be collected, shouldn't be necessary and would be complex from a data-protection standpoint. It argues that the app should simply determine whether any other app user has been nearby using Bluetooth, rather than mapping data.

However, consequently it follows that other uses don't seem to be optional, that Bluetooth connectivity and the use of push notifications to notify people of risks or indeed possibly contacts. 

If all the talk about these apps implies that they're imminent, you might need to think again. The EU's timeline appears to be aiming toward making security recommendations in May, before giving advice on data-sharing in June, indicating that we'll be hearing more about its plans and ideas for some time to come. 

Whether countries jump ahead and start releasing their apps ahead of these formal documents, of course, is something else we'll have to wait and see on.  

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 17 April 2020.