icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Contact-tracing app will be ‘key part’ of UK government’s Covid-19 ‘surveillance programme’ – Johnson spokesman

Contact-tracing app will be ‘key part’ of UK government’s Covid-19 ‘surveillance programme’ – Johnson spokesman
The controversial NHS contact-tracing app will be a “key part” of the British government’s Covid-19 “surveillance programme” going forward, a spokesman for PM Boris Johnson has confirmed.

The app, which has been designed to notify people if they were in close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus, could be available within weeks – but privacy campaigners have warned that it could see the public “coerced” into sharing personal data about their movements. 

Johnson’s spokesman said the primary focus while waiting for the app to be ready is ensuring continued social distancing in order to fulfil the “five tests” to be met before lockdown measures can be eased. Those tests include falling deaths and falling infection rates.

His comments follow an exchange in the House of Commons on Tuesday over legislation setting out the legal basis for processing personal data by the app. Shadow deputy leader of the House, Afzal Khan, said that while the app has an “important role to play,” legislation should ensure that it stores data in a decentralized manner.

Also on rt.com The UK’s Covid-19 response is being led by a secretive, incompetent cabal. No wonder our policies have been such a shambles

Solicitor General Michael Ellis QC assured Khan that the app will be “voluntary participation only” and there will be “no private identifiable information on it.” Furthermore, the whole process will be “data protection compliant and there will be an ethical advisory board monitoring it,” he said.

Internet law professor Lilian Edwards told MPs on Tuesday, however, that there was a “precedent of other pandemics leading to a mass land grab in extensive state surveillance.”

Several EU countries have also been developing contact-tracing apps, with Brussels saying earlier this month that it wanted to take a “common approach” to the use of digital technologies and data. 

A debate has raged in Europe in recent weeks over whether to use centralized or decentralized solutions for the apps. While a decentralized approach would see data stored on the user’s own phone, a centralized infrastructure would see data sent to a central database run by public authorities, which civil liberties groups say risks evolving into state surveillance.

Also on rt.com ‘Subtle cues’ make people SHARE more online, study says – what does this mean for a post-Covid-19 world?

German authorities said they would adopt a decentralized solution last week, U-turning on previous plans to back what's known as the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (Pepp-PT) protocol developed by European institutions. Berlin will now support decentralized solutions supported by Apple and Google instead, which leaves the gathered data on devices controlled by US tech corporations, presenting its own security concerns.

The UK, meanwhile, has opted for a centralized model and it’s been reported that experts from GCHQs National Cyber Security Centre are advising on the project. France has also been advocating a centralized app, prompting hundreds of the country's computer security experts to sign an open letter asking the government to reconsider due to concerns around privacy and individual freedoms.

Johnson's spokesman said the government would set out more details regarding the British app as soon as it could.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Dear readers and commenters,

We have implemented a new engine for our comment section. We hope the transition goes smoothly for all of you. Unfortunately, the comments made before the change have been lost due to a technical problem. We are working on restoring them, and hoping to see you fill up the comment section with new ones. You should still be able to log in to comment using your social-media profiles, but if you signed up under an RT profile before, you are invited to create a new profile with the new commenting system.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and looking forward to your future comments,

RT Team.