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Is the UK contact-tracing app fit for purpose?

07 May 2020

Privacy campaigners call for a more private & secure de-centralised model before rolling the app out across the UK.

The NHSX contact-tracing app, launched today in the Isle of Wight, will be using the less private and secure centralised data model (meaning user data is stored on a central server) for their contact-tracing app as opposed to a decentralised one, where user data remains on their device.

ProPrivacy is calling on the UK Government to op for the more private and secure de-centralised model before rolling this out across the UK, this will ensure more people will download the app, meaning that the app will have a higher chance of success in helping to stop the spread of the virus.
 
Tom Chivers, Digital Privacy Advocate at ProPrivacy, said: “While the UK Government may have legitimate reasons for wanting to utilise a centralised data model for the NHSX contact-tracing app, I believe they are going to have to compromise on this if they are going to bring the public on-side and get the numbers they need for it to be effective.
 
“An app that tracks your location constantly, being fed into a centralised server for anyone else to see, is a massive privacy violation. The Government and Matt Hancock have tried to dispel this by saying this information ‘stays on your phone’ until submitted by a user. 
 
“This might be true, but when a user confirms they have symptoms, everyone they come into contact with is then alerted, the centralised server will know this. What then happens if these people continue to go about their day to day lives? Will they get a visit from the police?”

ProPrivacy have published an open letter to Matt Hancock, asking him to reconsider his position: https://proprivacy.com/privacy-news/open-letter-matt-hancock


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