Court suspends part of Slovakia's phone-tracking law to fight virus spread

BRATISLAVA, May 13 (Reuters) - Slovakia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended parts of a new law allowing state authorities to access data collected by telecommunications operators as part of plans to track contacts of people infected with the coronavirus.

Parliament approved the legislation in March, but while the court said it accepted the necessity for fast solutions during the pandemic, these must not lead to an unintended erosion of the rule of law.

“Part of the suspended law was not sufficiently clear and allowed personal data processing without clear intentions ... and lacked necessary guarantees against potential misuse of processed personal data,” court chairman Ivan Fiacan said.

It was not clear what impact the court’s ruling on the legislation, which is due to expire at the end of the pandemic, would have on the government’s plan to launch a new tracking application for mobile phones.

The deputy prime minister’s office, in charge of developing the tracking app, was not immediately able to comment.

Countries across the European Union are rushing to develop tracing apps, hoping that smartphone technology could help bring about a reopening of borders - crucial to trade - without unleashing a second wave of the pandemic.

That in turn has stoked concerns about privacy breaches and government surveillance long after the virus crisis has eased.

Slovakia, a central European country of 5.5 million people, has reported 1,469 cases so far. (Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Editing by Alison Williams)