June 19 2020

Contact Tracing – Update

Thomson Heath Jenkins & Associates
Thomson Heath Jenkins & Associates

On 27th May, Associate Yinka McKay Wood, discussed the issues surrounding the NHS Covid-19 Contact Tracing App, in particular the privacy and data protection concerns surrounding the large scale collection of medical and location data through the App. In that article, questions were raised as to why the Government had opted to develop its own app rather than to use an app that had already been developed by Apple and Google and was successfully in use in other jurisdictions. An app which afforded its users greater control over their private data and handed over less information to the State.

Yesterday, the Government announced that the NHS App was being scrapped in favour of the Google and Apple app, for a number of technical reasons. Both apps work in a similar way. However, and significantly, unlike the NHS App, which would have sent the harvested data to a centralised database, the data collected by the Google and Apple app, is said to never leave the device. This means that the NHS would not gain access to any medical and location data of those using the app, which was initially of concern to privacy experts, since once in the hands of the Government the data could potentially be used for anything that it sees fit and in circumstances where the NHS had stated that it intended to use the data for research purposes after the Covid-19 crisis had ended.

Although there remains some privacy concerns, this U-turn by the Government is a welcome move when it comes to protecting and limiting the risk of potential misuse of the highly sensitive private data belonging to UK citizens.

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