Exposure Notification During the COVID-19 Pandemic: reconciling fundamental rights and Public Health with legality attentive data science


  • Giovanni Comandé


  • René Peralta
  • Carmela Troncoso
  • Michael Veale
  • Estelle Massé
  • Paolo Vineis

Organisation: LEADS and NIST

Room: Online 4

Timing: 11:45 - 13:00 on 28 January 2021

The COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted a tension between efforts to collect sensitive personal information at scale to combat the spread of disease and potential invasions of important fundamental rights. Advancements in cryptographic techniques and other privacy enhancing technologies have allowed public health officials to move beyond manual contact tracing and consider automated contact tracing or “exposure notification” tools to help mitigate the rapid spread of illness. Yet the public continues to vigorously debate how these technologies can impact fundamental rights well beyond data protection. The panel will explore the technological, legal, and ethical dimensions of automated contact tracing and exposure notification technologies, looking for paths to reconcile tracking or data collection for public good and fundamental rights.

The discussion will be an opportunity to: i)explore the applicability of exposure notification in various use cases, and debate the merits of different cryptographic protocols and other techniques that may be used to operationalize the tool; ii) test the interplay of the fundamental right to data protection with other fundamental rights enshrined in constitutions and international charters; and iii) put in a practical context the role of technical decisions to sustain the protection of fundamental rights.

This interdisciplinary dialogue reflects the urgency to train new leadership of legality attentive data scientists and experts in data-driven technologies.

• What is exposure notification, and how does it differ from manual contact tracing?
• Do different approaches have different risks for fundamental rights and liberties?
• Use cases: Effectiveness of exposure notification for the general public versus for smaller communities or controlled environments
• Potential tradeoffs between data collection at scale and privacy harms to individuals/risk to organizations: is tracking for public health (e.g. to contain COVID-19 spreading) different from other tracking goals? Who should be setting the boundaries?
• How can technology help to create anonymous data (“personal data rendered anonymous in such a manner that the data subject is not or no longer identifiable” GDPR refcital 26) enabling innovative technical and organisational measures to reach privacy-by-design and privacy-by-default standards? Who will be able to define and assess them? Which skills are required?


Giovanni Comandé

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa (IT)

Full Professor of Private Comparative Law at Scuola Superiore S. Anna Pisa, Italy. (Phd. SSSA, LLM Harvard Law School) Director: LIDER-LAB (www.lider-lab.eu). Attorney (New York and Pisa). Main current projects: LEADs -Legality Attentive Data Scientists (Coordinator) (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/956562); SoBigData++: European Integrated Infrastructure for Social Mining and Big Data Analytics; (task Leader) - Predictive Jurisprudence, (Coordinator: www.predictivejurisprudence.eu). Author of 6 monographs, editor of 14 collective works, published more than 200 articles, notes, chapters in Italian, English French and Spanish. He is the founder and president of Smartex s.r.l. (www.smartlex.eu) a Spin Off of SSSA.


René Peralta


Rene Peralta received a B.A. in Economics from Hamilton College in 1978 and an M.S. in Mathematics from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1980. In 1985 he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley. For the next 20 years he held various positions in academia, mostly as a professor of cryptography, algorithmics and computational number theory. In 2005 he moved to NIST. He is currently a scientist with the Computer Security Division. His various duties at NIST include technical lead of the Privacy Enhancing Cryptography project.

Carmela Troncoso


Carmela Troncoso is an assistant professor at EPFL (Switzerland) where she heads the SPRING Lab. Her research focuses on security and privacy. Carmela holds a Master's degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Vigo (2006) and a PhD in Engineering from the KU Leuven in 2011. Her thesis, Design and Analysis Methods for Privacy Technologies, received the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics Security and Trust Management Best PhD Thesis Award, and her work on Privacy Engineering received the CNIL-INRIA Privacy Protection Award in 2017. She has been named 40 under 40 in technology by Fortune in 2020.

Michael Veale


Dr Michael Veale is a lecturer in Digital Rights and Regulation at the Faculty of Laws, University College London. He researches at the intersection of law, computer science and human–computer interaction.

Estelle Massé

Access Now (BE)

Estelle Massé is Senior Policy Analyst and Global Data Protection Lead at Access Now. Her work focuses on data protection, privacy, surveillance and telecoms policies. In particular, Estelle leads the work of the organisation on data protection in the EU and around the world. She is a member of the Multistakeholder Expert Group of the European Commission to support the application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). She graduated with a Master in European Law from the University of Granada, Spain.

Paolo Vineis

Imperial College (UK)

Paolo Vineis is Chair of Environmental Epidemiology at Imperial College London and Visiting Scientist at the Italian Institute of Technology (Genova). He is a leading researcher in the field of molecular epidemiology and his latest research focuses on environmental exposures and intermediate markers from omic platforms in large epidemiological studies. He also investigates the effects of climate change on non-communicable diseases. Paolo Vineis is coordinator of the European Commission funded Exposomics (on air pollution) and Lifepath (H2020, on socio-economic inequalities and ageing) projects, both based on the development of omic technologies, and is a principal investigator or co-investigator of numerous international projects. He has more than 1000 publications in journals such as Nature, Science, Lancet, and Lancet Oncology (H-index 138). He is the author of “Health without Borders. Epidemics in the Era of Globalization”, Springer 2017.