07:47, May 07 268 0 theguardian.com

2020-05-07 07:47:04
UK contact-tracing app could fall foul of privacy law, government told

The NHS contact-tracing app must not be rolled out across the UK until the government has increased privacy and data protections, an influential parliamentary committee has said.

The joint committee on human rights said on Thursday it had “significant concerns” that must be addressed before it was expanded.

The app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, logs users’ movements and can alert people they have had contact with if they develop symptoms.

Ministers have said it is an important tool to study the spread of Covid-19 and help them ease lockdown restrictions.

But privacy campaign groups have opposed its introduction and a group of UK academics working in cybersecurity, privacy and law recently signed a joint letter saying it could open the door to general surveillance.

Harriet Harman, the chair of the joint committee on human rights, said government assurances on privacy were “not enough”.

“The government has given assurances about protection of privacy so they should have no objection to those assurances being enshrined in law.

“The contact-tracing app involves unprecedented data gathering. There must be robust legal protection for individuals about what that data will be used for, who will have access to it and how it will be safeguarded from hacking.

“Parliament was able quickly to agree to give the government sweeping powers. It is perfectly possible for parliament to do the same for legislation to protect privacy.”

The committee said the app would fall foul of the law in its current form. It has called for new legislation with guaranteed data and human rights protections, as well as an independent body to oversee the use, effectiveness and privacy protections of the app and any data associated with this contact-tracing, a digital contact-tracing human rights commissioner to deal with complaints from the public and report to parliament, and regular reviews of the scheme by Matt Hancock, the health secretary.