LibLink: Daisy Cooper MP: Any contact tracing app must respect privacy and maintain public trust

In an article on Politics Home, Lib Dem Culture spokesperson Daisy Cooper sets out the flaws in the Government’s plans for a contact tracing app to slow the spread of Covid-19 and highlighted LIb Dem plans for a law which would underpin safety and privacy.

The public won’t use an app if they don’t trust it, she said as she highlighted criticisms of the government’s plans.

These problems stem from the Government’s decision to reject plans for a “decentralised” app – as recommended by the Information Commissioner and many technology experts, and being implemented in many other countries – and pursue a “centralised” one instead.

Under the first system, information about the other phones you “meet” is recorded on your smartphone and the contact matching happens on your device; under the centralised system, all of that information is uploaded to a central server owned and run by the Government.

Ministers must urgently explain why they have chosen a system that many are warning will make the app less effective and less safe.

What would the Lib Dems do about it?

Our Safe Trace App Law would provide clear legal safeguards for this enormous collection, storage and use of people’s personal data – whether by the app or by human tracers – including a guarantee that your data will be deleted within 21 days of being collected, on a rolling basis.

It would make sure the app is truly voluntary, by creating legal safeguards against discrimination so that no one can be excluded from any space if they cannot or choose not to use the app. It would also create significant penalties for the misuse of any data, as has been done in Australia.

You can read her whole article here.

The party wants to see the following legal protections for citizens from any app and to any information collected by contact tracers employed by the government:

  • Ensure that data is only collected, retained and used as necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus, and no more.
  • Guarantee that personal data will not be used or shared beyond the direct purpose of contact tracing (e.g. in immigration, family or benefit cases).
  • Protect the anonymity of people who use the app.
  • Ensure that participation in the app is voluntary and prevent discrimination against those who cannot or will not use it.
  • Minimise the risks of discrimination and bias.
  • Require the Government to complete a full Data Protection Impact Assessment and publish the results for everyone to see.
  • Require full transparency about any data-sharing between the government and other public or private bodies.
  • Introduce significant penalties (fines and prison sentences) for the misuse of sensitive personal data.
  • Require independent oversight of the app and associated policies.
  • Require the code for the app to be open-source, so independent experts can make sure it works effectively and complies with these rules.
  • Require all personal data to be deleted within 21 days of generation.
  • Include a sunset clause requiring that all models built on the data are deleted when the crisis is over.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

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3 Comments

  • Phil Beesley 17th May '20 - 3:30pm

    “* Introduce significant penalties (fines and prison sentences) for the misuse of sensitive personal data.”

    Has anyone in the UK ever been sent to prison for disclosing personal data? Is there any data to determine whether/how punishments affect perpetrators?

    Every phone app will generate false-positive contacts and false-negatives, irrespective of whether data is stored centrally or on the device. The phone app is dependent on whether positive contacts — false or real — are followed up by human trackers and testers.

    If there are too many false-positives, the tracking system will be swamped and people will lose faith in phone apps.

    I’m not a disbeliever. I just think it is really difficult to invent stuff on the hoof, and even more difficult if your history of decision making is anything like our government’s.

  • Jenny Barnes 17th May '20 - 5:58pm

    I turned my phone off because the app sucks my battery down in4 hours….

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