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NHS Covid-19 tracing app is “massive privacy violation”

Ian White
May 7, 2020

Pressure group urges Health Secretary to reconsider NHS app tech

The NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app has been criticised for using the less private and secure method of storing user data.

It is argued there is a more secure system where the data remains on the device that should be used.

Privacy advocates ProPrivacy is calling on the UK Government to opt for the more private and secure de-centralised model before rolling this out across the UK to 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’ said ProPrivacy advocate Tim Chivers.

NHS COVID-19 is the new contact-tracing Bluetooth-powered app that has been designed and built by the NHS to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Once installed, an alert is sent if the app-user has been in close contact with other users of the app that are infected.

Installation is voluntary and the app does not collect personal data.

Information is deleted once it is no longer needed to help manage the spread of coronavirus.

It has already been criticised by being less effective than Apple and Google’s contact-tracing technology.


ProPrivacy has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, asking him to reconsider his position.

“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”, said Chivers.

“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 has published a worldwide index of contact-tracing apps. Each app is given a privacy score out of 10.

Founded in 2013, the company’s mission is to “help users around the world reclaim their right to privacy through research, reviews, knowledge-sharing, investigations, and direct action.”

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