MP's Call for NHS App to Delete All Data Once Pandemic Ends

By Shabana Arif on at

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has drafted a bill to pass through government that will stop any data collected through the NHS contact tracing app to be retained after the pandemic ends and the app is no longer required, and that stipulates the data only be used for the explicit purpose of combating the virus while the app is in service.

We've already seen the absolute mess the NHS app has devolved into, with concerns that it's in breach of human rights and data protection laws, and has failed basic tests around security and safety. The Isle of Wight trial is a joke, running into all sorts of problems that further highlight how useless it is, while leaked internal documents from NHSX point to further privacy violations and the intention to keep the data - which can be used to identify individuals.

The head of NHSX, Matthew Gould, tried to worm his way out of committing to this basic request for citizens' privacy, telling JCHR the data "will either be deleted or fully anonymised in line with the law, so that it can be used for research purposes”. In response - and after reviewing findings from an inquiry - JCHR's chair, Harriet Harman, said:

"We cannot rely on the current failed mishmash of protections that were never envisaged for this situation. We need new legislation.

"Government collection of our movements and physical contacts would have been unconscionable before, but now it is happening. Big powers demand big safeguards. The government should not resist their assurances being put into law. Parliament completed emergency legislation for new powers. It can do it now for new protections."

If the bill is shot down, JCHR will ask Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, if it can move forward with it as a private member's bill. The app also relies on self-reporting symptoms with no outside verification of illness, making it rife for abuse or inaccurate results because someone has a dry throat and thinks they're going to die now. And it seems that the centralised approach NHSX has taken might finally be acknowledged as a bloody stupid decision internally, with rumours that a second, replacement app is on the way that will use Apple and Google's API. [The Guardian]

Feature image credit: Unsplash