EXCLUSIVE: Opposition slam contact tracing scheme chaos amid fresh data breach

"These firms involved in contact tracing cannot be relied on to keep people's data safe."

Opposition politicians say the government must ‘get to grips’ with the contact tracing system, following revelations of a new data breach in the scheme by Left Foot Forward.

On Thursday LFF revealed that a firm hiring contact tracers shared the personal email addresses and names of applicants without their permission – marking the second reported data breach in a week, after outsourcing firm Serco shared around 300 contact tracing applicants’ email addresses with each other.

In the latest breach – confirmed as such by the Information Commissioner – the day before the interview, 48 London contact tracing applicants with the agency Workforce were sent an email cancelling their appointment – inadvertently making all their email addresses were visible to each other.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the revelations showed the system was ‘farcical’:

Ms Reeves added: “Contact tracing is highly sensitive work, dealing with a great deal of personal information. Concerns that those responsible for it cannot be trusted with basic data security will undermine the whole strategy. 

“We need much more transparency from government about how these contracts to deliver vital parts of our response to coronavirus have been awarded. Most of all we need reassurances that contact tracing is in safe hands.”

Ed Davey MP, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, told this site: “For enough people to use the contact-tracing app or provide accurate information to human tracers, the public will need to have confidence that their personal data is secure and is not used beyond the specific purpose of combating the spread of coronavirus.

“The government must ensure that people’s data is protected and their privacy is respected. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to bring forward a new Safe Trace App Law, to provide a clear legal framework for this enormous collection, storage and use of people’s personal data – including a guarantee that the data will be deleted once it isn’t needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus anymore.”

Caroline Lucas MP told Left Foot Forward trust in the contact tracing scheme will ‘rapidly break down’ following revelations over data breaches: “Government claims can’t be trusted, promises aren’t met and now firms involved in contact tracing cannot be relied on to keep people’s data safe.

“If the government’s attempts to ease the lockdown are not to unravel even further, it needs to get a grip and do it fast.  People’s data must be secure and contact tracing must be run at a community level by those who have experience in this, namely directors of public health and local environmental health officers.”  

The Department of Health have so far failed to comment.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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