Campaigners raise privacy concerns over ‘track and trace’ app

A poll conducted from the Open Knowledge Foundation found that ‘an overwhelming majority’ of Brits want any introduction of a contract-tracing app to protect civil liberties and people’s privacy.

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Human rights should be taken into account in any coronavirus contact-tracing app, says new opinion poll.

A poll conducted from the Open Knowledge Foundation found that ‘an overwhelming majority’ of Brits want any introduction of a contact-tracing app to protect civil liberties and people’s privacy.

This came out ahead of Monday’s evidence session at Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on the human rights implications of any covid19 tracing apps.

An NHS app which can alert users when they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus symptoms and need to seek a test will be trial on the Isle of Wight next week.

While 65% of the over 1,000 surveyed support the introduction of such an app in the UK, 90% of respondents said it’s important that civil liberties are taken into account and privacy protected.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said that technology will play a ‘key’ role in the global pandemic response and there is ‘clear support’ for a contact-tracing app in the UK.

She added: “But what is even clearer is that people want the app to take account of civil liberties and ensure that people’s privacy is protected.

“We must not lose sight of ethical responsibilities in the rush to develop these tools.

“It is vital to balance the needs of individuals and the benefit to society, ensuring that human rights are protected to secure public trust and confidence in the system.”

Campaigners have raised concerns about how data will be processed, how long it will be kept for and who will own the information.

The centralised approach the UK is understood to be working towards has already been abandoned in Germany over privacy concerns.

The UK contact tracing system will be outsourced to private call centre operators, with scandal-hit Serco said to be in ‘advanced talks’ for the contract.

Last year the private contractor was fined millions for fraud and false accounting over its Ministry of Justice electronic tagging service.

The private security giant has repeatedly been offered government contracts despite its historic failings on human rights.

In 2014 the Home Office came under fire for renewing Serco’s £70m contract to run Yarl’s Wood despite accusations including sexual misconduct against the vulnerable female detainees.

The Paradise Papers revealed in 2017 that an offshore law firm characterised Serco as a ‘high risk’ client, citing concerns over fraud, cover up of detainee abuse and mishandling of radioactive waste.

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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3 Responses to “Campaigners raise privacy concerns over ‘track and trace’ app”

  1. Campaigners raise privacy concerns over ‘track and trace’ app - Politics Highlight - News from the Left and Right

    […] 4 May 2020Politics Highlight A poll conducted from the Open Knowledge Foundation found that ‘an overwhelming majority’ of Brits want any introduction of a contract-tracing app to protect civil liberties and people’s privacy. Author: Sophia Dourou | Source […]

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