ADM Systems in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Greece

New report: 'Automated Decision-Making Systems in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A European Perspective' by AlgorithmWatch and Bertelsmann Stiftung – a special issue of the upcoming Automating Society Report 2020, to be published in October.

Country analysis: Greece

By Eleftherios Chelioudakis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology is being held up as a crucial component to support the fight against the spread of the virus. Its uses in Greece seem to have included support for different measures. We will briefly report on three such technological applications:  i) tracking of self-reported symptoms to predict potential COVID-19 patients, ii) screening of individuals in order to predict those safe to travel, and iii) monitoring the movement of populations via the use of drones.

Assessing the risk of being infected by the coronavirus

In March 2020, the Regional Governor of Attica launched a platform that assesses the risk of being infected by COVID-19 and provides personalized advice for potential patients. The platform is called “COVID19 Symptom Checker” and it is powered by DOCANDU, a company offering digital health solutions. According to its official website, the platform is approved by two official health entities in Greece, i.e. the Medical Association of Athens and the Athens Medical Society.

Users respond to a series of questions related to biographical information (gender, age, height, weight), current symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, myalgias, etc.), chronic health conditions (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, malignancy, renal diseases, etc.), as well as their social whereabouts (social/professional history, travel, contact with patients, etc.).

According to the users’ answers and based on statistical probabilities, the platform informs the users whether they belong to vulnerable groups, while also it predicts the risk of a user being infected by the corona virus. Finally, the platform provides instructions for further steps (stay home, avoid contact with people, contact a doctor etc.). During its first week of operation, the platform received about 12,000 visits.

Screening of incoming travelers

In July 2020, the Hellenic Government launched the “Passenger Locator Form (PLF)”, a questionnaire that all incoming travelers must complete before entering Greece. The travelers shall provide input including their biographical information (name, age, gender, contact details), as well as information about the country of their permanent residence and their previously visited countries in the last 14 days. It is worth mentioning that the PLF does not include questions related to travelers’ health. Furthermore, based on the PLF’s privacy policy, the personal data of the travelers will be retained for twenty three days starting from the traveler’s entrance in Greece, and then will be completely destroyed.

The purpose of collecting these data is to conduct screening of incoming travelers so that the Greek Authorities will assess upon travelers’ arrival whether one should be tested for COVID-19 or not. More precisely, after analyzing the received input and based on statistical probabilities related to the traveler’s country of residence and their previously visited countries, the PLF sends a special QR code to each of them. Then, when travelers arrive to Greece, screening personnel directs them, depending on their QR code, either to the screening area where they will be tested for the coronavirus or to the exit of the check-point.

From the description of the tool on its official website, it is not particularly clear how exactly the variables related to the prior countries of travel and the country of residence affect the risk assessment procedure.

Using drones to monitor compliance with physical distancing measures

In April 2020, the Greek Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection announced that the Greek Police will deploy drones during the Easter holidays in order to ensure compliance with the movement restriction measures related to COVID-19, while such actions were later confirmed by numerous media reports. It is worth mentioning that the use of drones was based on legal rules that were adopted just few months before.

The new legislation allows for an indiscriminate and blanket use of drones for any kind of policing and border management activities, opening the way for various kinds of drone operations. The Greek civil society organization Homo Digitalis claims that the new rules do not address the challenges arising from the applicable data protection and privacy legislation, and that the use of drones in public places raises profound fundamental rights issues.

For these reasons, Homo Digitalis filed an official query with the Ministry of Citizen Protection requesting more information about the deployment of drones by the Greek Police to ensure compliance with the lockdown measures against COVID-19, while it notified the Greek Data Protection Authority on this regard.

Download the full report as PDF (1 MB).

Automated Decision-Making Systems in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A European Perspective is a special issue of the report Automating Society 2020 by AlgorithmWatch and Bertelsmann Stiftung, to be published in October. Subscribe to the our newsletter to be alerted when the report is out.