Thu, 13 June 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Parliament Unwrapped: What did the 2019-2024 Parliament mean for workers’ health, safety, and wellbeing? Partner content
Five-point manifesto to support people and families living with obesity Partner content
This is manifestly the moment for dementia to be made a priority Partner content
Soaring dementia care costs reach £42 billion in UK – and families bear the brunt Partner content
An international call to G7 leaders for financial commitments to fight neglected tropical diseases Partner content
By Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases
Press releases

MPs and peers demand greater data protections before NHS coronavirus tracing app rolled out

MPs and Peers have called for greater protections for user's data

3 min read

Ministers must improve data protections in the NHS coronavirus tracing app before it is made widely available to the public, an influential group of MPs and peers have said.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights warned there were still "significant concerns" about the safety of the application, which they claimed had "potential longer-term effects on personal freedoms and concerns around surveillance".

The NHS app, which is currently undergoing a pilot study on the Isle of Wight, will alert users if they have been in significant contact with an infected person, and allow medical staff to follow the spread of the illness

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already said the public had a "duty" to download it when it is made available, but insisted the software had been developed to bring "high privacy" to user's data.

But in a new report, the Committee said they were "not reassured" the measures went far enough to protect the public "regarding surveillance and the impact on other human rights".

While the group said the app could "pave the way" out of lockdown if successful, they hit out at the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of the plans as they demanded ministers sought the urgent approval of MPs.

They wrote: "Previous extensions of state powers of surveillance and data collection for the purposes of terrorism prevention have been legitimised by legislation scrutinised by Parliament; and so, it should be for public health purposes.

"Without clear efficacy and benefits of the app, the level of data being collected will not be justifiable and it will therefore fall foul of data protection law and human rights protections."

They added: "The Government and health authorities must at all times be transparent about how the app, and data collected through it, is being used, including publishing ethics reviews and sufficient technical specification information relating to the app and to data security."

Meanwhile the group also called for a review of the app's safety every 21 days to be carried out by the Health Secretary to ensure there had been no breaches of sensitive data.

Labour MP Harriet Harman, who chairs the committee, said: "Assurances from Ministers about privacy are 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 Department of Health have been approached for comment.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by John Johnston - MP Warns That Online Hate Could Lead To More Real World Attacks On Parliamentarians


Coronavirus Health
Partner content
Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

Find out more