Even the Police Don't Trust the NHS Contact Tracing System

By Shabana Arif on at

It seems that even the police themselves are wary of the NHS' Test and Trace system, with word on the street being that they're looking into their own version for officers to use instead.

The NHS Test and Trace system is currently operating without completing the legally required data protection impact assessment, and is facing a legal challenge over its use of people's data. It has raised a huge amount of security concerns and has already had a data breach. And it seems that the police have recognised it for what it is and what nothing to do with it.

Sky News reports that police forces plan to use their own contact tracing system over fears that undercover officers could be endangered, as well as entire stations being closed down if every bugger has to self isolate - which health secretary Matt Hancock has threatened to make mandatory. Speaking to the news outlet, a source close to the matter said:

"There's a host of areas we have to be very careful. If I'm working undercover with another officer, giving those details across could give away not just their information but the methodology of how we work, which would put people in danger."

Another option, outside of developing their own system, is to reassign NHS Test and Trace staff to police. There's 25,000 of them with not a lot to do, so this seems like it would be the most feasible of the two options. The National Police Chiefs Council denied that it's working on setting up its own contact tracing scheme, saying officers will use the NHS' system "at the outset," while discussions are taking place with Public Health England (PHE) about data protection, and the possibility of a dedicated "national vetted public health outbreak team". So we all have to use a dodgy system with threats of it being made mandatory, while the police get to skip that, knowing it's a privacy concern, and have their own special team. Right. Just fills you with confidence about the NHS' system, doesn't it? Allyson Pollock, director of Newcastle University's Institute of Health and Society, said:

"Contact tracing systems are based on trust. This tells you that the police don't trust the system and don't believe data will not be shared more widely, not just with the call handlers but the whole system.

"I think the public needs to be asking very serious questions about this."

Kent Police has told officers who test positive not to disclose the details of people they've been in contact with should contact tracers actually bother reaching out. These types of uncooperative calls are supposed to be escalated, but of course, the police get a free pass. Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix said as much, explaining that:

"[The police force will be] dealt with differently to members of the public.

"This is because police officers will most likely come into contact with the virus in the course of their duties, when they are wearing personal protective equipment and practising social distancing."

If it's not secure enough for the police, it's not secure enough for the general public. This should be ringing all of the alarm bells. [Sky News]

Feature image credit: Unsplash