COVID-19: why the Italian government-required “self-certification” doesn’t work

Nobody these days wants to listen to hair-splitting legalese. Still, when this COVID-19 tragedy is over, the survivors hopefully question what happened to our Constitutional rights. Maybe some scholars investigate the flaws of the emergency legislation, or the risks the democratic institutions took, or how the bureaucracy monster has not given up his lust for the sacrifices that feed him.

The case of the “self-certification” of the path and the reasons justifying the departure from home that authorities imposed is the most obvious example. Continue reading “COVID-19: why the Italian government-required “self-certification” doesn’t work”

COVID-19 and “slow Internet complaints” in Italy

Users’ complaints about the poor speed of the Internet connections gain momentum. Petitions, newspaper articles, and timely and inevitable initiatives to “get compensation” accuse operators and Internet providers of not providing “enough bandwidth”. In times of crisis, they say, this “slows down smart-working”, but it isn’t likely so. Continue reading “COVID-19 and “slow Internet complaints” in Italy”

COVID-19 and Constitutional Issues in Italy

There is an increasing criticism of the constitutional legitimacy of government action in the COVID-19 emergency, and even in this specific area, there is inaccurate information circulating about the arbitrary “suspension of individual rights” and the centralization in the hands of the executive of (very) strong powers.

At least from a formal point of view, the rules are followed as the suspension of certain fundamental rights (freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of teaching, freedom of assembly and freedom of business activities) was ordered by decree-law no. 6 of 23 February 2020. Continue reading “COVID-19 and Constitutional Issues in Italy”

COVID-19: Is the app that tracks users illegal?

“Apps” are multiplying for tracking users affected by COVID-19 and also in Italy – it seems – institutions are evaluating similar solutions while private entities have already developed software of this sort.

Inevitable, and often inappropriate, the alarms for the “violation of privacy” – as if the necessary limitations of the other fundamental rights that we are suffering were nothing at all – and those invoking the GDPR (which, I repeat ad nauseam, does not apply to the protection of public order and security, national security and other associated misfortunes and disasters). But this does not mean that it would be good to overlook the principles of the GDPR. Even putting aside regulatory precepts approaches based on need-to-know (do I need – or right – to process specific data? And who receives them?) and secure software design (OWASP exists “regardless” of the GDPR) are fundamental elements for the functioning of a digital ecosystem, especially in times of emergency. Continue reading “COVID-19: Is the app that tracks users illegal?”

Corona Virus infection’s growth is not “exponential”

Yesterday night, Roberto Speranza, the Italian Health Minister, said to TG4 (the news programme of a National broadcaster) that the Coronavirus spreading in Italy is – or it has been -? “exponential”. As a matter of fact, this is not correct, as “exponential” has a specific mathematical meaning that does not match with the data provided by the Italian Government itself. Moreover, talking about “exponential growth” without indicating the exponent and specifying whether it is whole or fractional, does not allow the listener to understand what is the real “steepness” of the curve to which we are referring. Finally, at most, we can speak of an exponential trend in relation to a stretch of the curve, certainly not in relation to the curve itself. Unlike a mathematical function, in fact, the data on contagion are conditioned by variables? that vary (how many probes I did yesterday, how many I do today and how many I will do tomorrow, on which population I perform the analysis etc. etc.). In other words, the trend of the contagion curves (net of all the questions about the composition of the sample) has a (limited) descriptive capacity of the past, but it can hardly give indications about the future.

Raising this issue with a fellow journalist I got this answer: “stop being a semantic prick! People are not read in mathematics and they know that when we use “exponential” we do it as a synonym for “very quick and fast grow”.

Well, maybe I am a “semantic prick” – aren’t we, lawyers?  – but when hard decisions such as putting the whole Italy in quarantine have to be taken, I would expect the decision-makers to ground their assessment on solid basis rather than on a sloppy use (and understanding?) of data and information.

This is not to say that the decision to quarantine Italy is wrong (I neither have the knowledge nor the competence to judge it.) I only point out that there might not be a cause-effect relationship with a (good) decision and the reasons that backed it.