A Liberal Democrat press release brings the news…
Responding to the Health Secretary’s announcement that the NHSX app is now being piloted on the Isle of Wight, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
We must test, trace and isolate to keep people safe. Mass testing, contact tracing and isolation at the community level for those who test positive is the only safe way out of lockdown.
While technology can help the tracing work, much of it must inevitably be people-based. Apps like NHSX may help but they carry risks, not least in terms of privacy and efficacy.
Many will be understandably concerned and, given the sensitivity of data being recorded, it is imperative the Government ensures that any NHSX app meets the highest security and privacy standards.
The Liberal Democrats demand absolute transparency when it comes to what information is collected, how long it is stored for, and who has access to this data.
When it comes to contact tracing, outsourcing this process to private companies like SERCO fails to capitalise on local knowledge, which will be crucial in tackling future outbreaks at a local level. The Government must do more to harness local public and environmental health expertise to inform the tracing process.
We know contact tracing will only be effective if we are also testing at scale. The Government must be frank with the public about the number of tests conducted each day, and the levels of testing needed to ensure the success of a test, trace, isolate approach.
These concerns are all the more important given what the Health Service Journal reports:
The government’s coronavirus contact tracing app has so far failed the tests needed to be included in the NHS app library, HSJ understands.
The app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight this week, ahead of a national rollout later this month. Senior NHS sources told HSJ it had thus far failed all of the tests required for inclusion in the app library, including cyber security, performance and clinical safety.
There are also concerns at high levels about how users’ privacy will be protected once they log that they have coronavirus symptoms, and become “traceable”, and how this information will be used.
I’ll be talking about the civil liberties implications of coronavirus apps such as this one with the Open Rights Group‘s Jim Killock in the next episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts. Sign up here to get an email notification when it comes out.