COVID-19 Apps, Corona Vaccination Apps and Data 'Ownership'

21 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2022 Last revised: 28 Nov 2022

See all articles by Sjef van Erp

Sjef van Erp

Amsterdam Law School; Trento University, Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 27, 2021


Already before the present COVID-19 health crisis an emerging trend could be seen towards offering health services from a distance, called “e-health”. This trend, like so many other developments towards digitalisation of our societies, received a considerable impetus because of the COVID-19 crisis. First, the rise of COVID-19 tracing (and/or tracking) apps and now to be followed by the advance of Corona vaccination apps has made us aware of the benefits which e-health may bring, particularly in a situation where distance means safety. The apps contain very personal information and, consequently, have provoked questions as to whether the apps sufficiently protect a person’s right to privacy and data protection as safeguarded by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The nature of the data, however, is such that also questions as to the importance of access by public health authorities in the public interest can be asked. Also, although commercial, but still important for developing and producing vaccines, for the pharmaceutical industry the data are important. The result is a conflict particularly between entitlement to privacy protection and the general interest, causing questions to be asked about which interest has priority. It might very well be, however, that this question, asked as such, is beside the point. Given that data are non-rivalrous and non-depletable, because they can be copied and copied, questions about which entitlement has priority cannot be answered in absolute terms. Rights regarding data depend upon who at a particular time has control over the data, who else has control and what control between all those involved then means. Looking at who has which right to data one can see an entitlement paradigm surfacing which is multi-perspective, relative and dynamic. Calling data entitlement “ownership” is not a reference to ownership in the traditional sense of the word, but to management. To decide what management in a particular situation means interest balancing exercises must be made. These exercises will change over time, as accordingly will the answer to the question who is “owner” of data in COVID-19 and Corona vaccination apps.

Keywords: COVID-19 apps, health data, data ownership

JEL Classification: K11, K12, K13, K32, K40

Suggested Citation

van Erp, Sjef, COVID-19 Apps, Corona Vaccination Apps and Data 'Ownership' (March 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Sjef Van Erp (Contact Author)

Amsterdam Law School ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND

Trento University, Faculty of Law ( email )


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