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84% of UK citizens fear Covid-19 ‘contact-tracing creep’

Written by Tue 30 Jun 2020

Over three-quarters of UK citizens believe their contact-tracing data will be used for non-Covid-19 purposes

A new report has revealed UK citizens fear data harvested for contact-tracing will be used by the Government for purposes other than Covid-19 containment.

84 percent of 2,218 online consumers surveyed by identity technology provider Okta said they believed personal data collected as part of the UK’s test, track and trace programme would be used for purposes unrelated to Covid-19.

Nevertheless UK citizens are more willing than other countries to give up their data to aid containment of Covid-19, Okta said.

60 percent of UK respondents said they would be comfortable providing location data to help fight coronavirus, compared to 45 percent in the Netherlands, 47 percent in Germany, 48 percent in the US and 49 percent in Australia.

Okta’s survey also gauged the attitude of Brits towards the different ways the Government is collecting personal data to help beat coronavirus.

66 percent are comfortable with personal data being collected to determine where the virus is spreading and 61 percent have no issue with the Government tracking who diagnosed individuals have come into contact with.

Meanwhile, 58 percent are happy for data to be used to determine vaccine effectiveness and 60 percent believe smartphone-based data tracking will be effective in containing the virus.

“It’s great to see that despite privacy concerns, UK citizens are willing to provide their data in order to aid containment of Covid-19,” said Jesper Frederiksen, VP & GM EMEA at Okta.

“However, it’s important that this trust is not abused. Those collecting this data need to ensure they restrict who can access it and what it is used for,” he added.

Contact-tracing woes

The UK test, track and trace programme has been plagued by a host of problems, including an ill-fated contact-tracing app now delayed until Winter.

After deciding against basing its app on Apple and Google’s decentralised model, the Government went ahead with its own centralised version developed by the NHS’ digital arm NHSX.

The app and wider contact-tracing approach faced sharp criticism from privacy experts, who agreed a centralised approach offered a greater risk of re-identification.

After a well-publicised trial in the Isle of Wight was beset by glitches and poor uptake, Downing Street ditched the app in its current form and announced it would launch a new version based on Apple and Google’s technology by the Winter.

In the meantime, the Government’s contact tracing efforts largely revolve around the NHS Test and Trace website, which asks people to submit their personal data — including contact details of people they have been in contact with — if they develop symptoms or test positive for the disease.

Written by Tue 30 Jun 2020


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