Making sure the COVID-19 tracing app is safe and effective

May 13, 2020 1:00 PM
By Liberal Democrats
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Reports suggest that the NHS tracing app is set to be rolled out nationwide by end of next week, despite concerns about privacy and misuse of personal data.

That's why we're calling on the government to bring forward a new "Safe Trace App Law", to ensure the Government's coronavirus tracing app is safe and effective.

This new primary legislation would force the Government to justify its decision to reject plans for a decentralised app (as recommended by the Information Commissioner) and pursue a centralised app instead, despite experts warning that:

  • It may not work on phones that are locked or when it's running in the background.
  • It will drain a phone's battery, so won't work for long.
  • It will be incompatible with other countries' apps, including Ireland's.
  • It puts people's privacy at greater risk.

The Safe Trace App Law would provide a clear legal framework for this enormous collection, storage and use of people's personal data, including:

  • A guarantee that your data will be deleted within 21 days of being collected, on a rolling basis.
  • Creating legal safeguards against discrimination so no one can be excluded from any space for not having or refusing to use the app.
  • Introducing significant penalties for the misuse of personal data.

Daisy Cooper, our Spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

"Any strategy for easing the country out of lockdown must prevent another surge. An app alone will not end this lockdown, but a safe and effective app could play an important part in a broader strategy to test, trace and isolate to keep people safe.

It is vital that the Government gets this right first time. It must not lose valuable time and risk losing public confidence by reinventing the wheel when there are already effective models it could use.

That's why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to bring forward a new Safe Trace App Law, to ensure that the app will keep people safe, and be a genuinely effective tool in which the public have confidence.

To keep people safe, the Government must be open and honest about the decisions it is making in the design of this app. If the public don't have confidence in it, they won't use it - our plans for a Safe Trace App Law would fix that."