One of the leading authorities on digital law in the North of England has warned that issues of trust, not data protection are the key to the success of the government’s proposed COVID-19 tracking app.
Paul Berwin, Head of Digital at Berwins Digital has called on the government to ensure earning the confidence of the population at the heart of its launch plans.
The app will gather personal data on where users have been and who they come into contact with.
Commenting on the plans, Paul said “Based on data protection legislation, it seems there are two legal considerations – consent and data protection. Consent should not be an issue as the app can be viewed as both performing a public task and working to support vital interests in saving lives.”
“Data protection too is a reasonably straight forward factor, though that does not mean that the uses of this data do not need to be carefully and proportionately planned. Broadly speaking though, so long as the developers request only appropriate data, have a clear plan for how it will be used and stored and set this in front of the public before they sign up, then the app will be compliant.”
Similar apps have already been rolled out across the world and is being heralded as a route out of lockdown.
The latest country to launch the product is Australia, where there has been widespread take up – over a million users downloaded the COVIDSafe app in just five hours. That has come in the wake of assurances by the health minister that “not even a court order” would allow access to the data for purposes beyond contact tracing.
“The UK government must take a similar approach” added Paul. “People signing up to this app are likely to be driven by the overall public good, but they must also have confidence that potentially sensitive information will not fall into the wrong hands.”
“With recent surveys suggesting confidence in politicians and the government has been eroded over the past five years – not least in the field of data protection – that could be a sizable project, though it seems to be a vital one.”