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App That Tracks Contagion Networks by COVID-19: Is It Legal to Make it Mandatory?

On September 1, 2020, an app for Android and iOS was officially launched in Portugal that allows you to track, quickly and anonymously, and through the physical proximity between 'smartphones', the contagion networks by COVID-19, informing users who have been, in the last 14 days, in the same space as someone infected with the new coronavirus.

With the name StayAway Covid, its installation is voluntary, as well is voluntary the insertion of the code that accompanies the diagnosis confirmation.

However, with the exponential increase of the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Portugal, the Portuguese Government decided to submit to the Portuguese Parliament a proposal for legislation making mandatory the installation of the app by the Portuguese.

At the same time that there was an immediate increase in downloads of the app by the Portuguese, an attack was also initiated against this measure considered by many to be authoritarian and immoral for allowing the State to enter our cell phones to get to know all our movements, without authorization or judicial reason (although we allow private individuals, with so many other apps, to do the same every day).

Questioned the legality of this measure, there is some divergence but it is practically unanimous on the part of the experts that no measure should be approved that makes the use of the app mandatory, being certain that the President of Portugal has already informed that he is willing to question the Constitutional Court on that fact.

However, being certain that the lack of care of many Portuguese in the fight against this pandemic is obvious, the mandatory use of this app would contribute a lot in the fight against the spread of this virus and could prevent various contagions and deaths.

Because of this, and despite the risk of possible negative consequences when something that restricts the freedom of the population is placed on a scale, I am not shocked by the mandatory nature of this app, for those who have a smartphone, since the anonymity of everyone involved is guaranteed .

And the download numbers for the app seem to suggest the same understanding on the population, with more than 2 million downloads in less than 2 months (in a universe of 5 million smartphones in Portugal).

However, and because of the controversy, the Government suspended the bill to obtain legal opinions, so for now there will be no decisions in this field.

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Filipe Consciência's picture

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1984, Filipe Consciência did his entire education in Lisbon, entering with 17 years at the Law Faculty of Lisbon University.

After graduating, and before entering the legal labor market, Filipe Consciência accepted the position of employee of a car stand, having in just a few months become department manager and later responsible for two car stands.

In September 2008, Filipe Consciência started working in the office of Pragma founder, Cecília Caria Mendes, beginning  to work with Pragma right away.

Over the years Filipe Consciência has specialized in consumer, labour and commercial law, and also in real estate.

After actively participating with Cecília Caria Mendes in the discussion and drafting of the law that allows the attribution of Portuguese nationality to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, since 2015 that Filipe Consciência has been responsible for the office's nationality department, having already delivered several thousand requests for attribution of Portuguese nationality, with great success.
In 2017, Filipe Consciência was invited to become Associate of Caria Mendes Advogados.