Civil liberties concerns persist after “widely predicted” move to private sector tracing system


In the Media

Professor Philip Booth writes for Conservative Home

In response to the news that the NHS coronavirus app has been abandoned in favour of the Apple and Google system, IEA Head of Regulatory Affairs Victoria Hewson said:

“The abandonment of the NHSX’s attempt to create a bespoke system for digital contact tracing in favour of a private sector solution had been widely predicted.

“The NHS app was beset with technical and legal difficulties from the beginning, whereas Apple and Google have a track record of producing trusted solutions at scale around the world, which health authorities will be able to leverage.

“In fairness, some of the things that the NHSX team were trying to do were understandable, such as allowing people to self-report symptoms rather than wait for an official test, and obtaining richer data for health authorities and researchers to work with.

“Of course, the latter was also a source of privacy and civil liberties concerns. While the Apple/Google solution entails less central sharing of data, those civil liberties concerns persist, especially around how it might be used.

“For example: will people eventually be expected to show their disease status on the app before being allowed into public spaces or workplaces, leading to the kind of digital ID envisaged by its long-term advocates?

“Will authorities seek to enforce isolation of people who receive a contact notification? There are still many issues with digital contact tracing that need to be understood before a critical mass of people will feel comfortable signing up to it.”


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For further reading:

Corona trade-offs: some issues with “test, test, test” and “track and trace”

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