The UK public’s right to privacy could become “another casualty” of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic through the use of a contact-tracing app, Amnesty International UK has warned.
The government is to begin testing its coronavirus contact-tracing app on the Isle of Wight this week. It uses Bluetooth to track and trace contact between users – alerting people if someone they interacted with has displayed symptoms or tested positive for the virus.
However, privacy concerns have been raised over the centralised approach the NHS app takes – which sees contact data from app users shared with the NHS and a central database if a user declares they have symptoms.
NHSX, the app’s developer, has insisted the NHS and the app asks only for the first half of a user’s postcode, all data in the app is anonymous and does not leave a user’s phone until they volunteer to share it with the NHS.
However, Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said the government should be looking at decentralised app models – where contact-tracing data stays on a user’s device.
“We’re extremely concerned that the Government may be planning to route private data through a central database, opening the door to pervasive state surveillance and privacy infringement, with potentially discriminatory effects,” she said.
“Ministers should instead be examining decentralised, privacy-preserving models such as those many European governments are pursuing.
“In these extraordinary times, contact-tracing apps and other technology could potentially be useful tools in responding to Covid-19, but our privacy and rights must not become another casualty of the virus.
“Contact-tracing apps must always be voluntary and without incentives or penalties.”
The app trial being run on the Isle of Wight is voluntary, although NHS chiefs and the government have urged residents to download the app in order to improve its impact.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?