New COVID-19 tracing app needs data protection legislation, says Harriet Harman

Katherine Johnston (20 May, 2020)

'There must be robust legal protections for individuals limiting what that data will be used for, who will have access to it and how it will be safeguarded from hacking,' says the Camberwell and Peckham MP

31615Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman is aghast that the government not implemented legislation that would protect users of the COVID-19 track and tracing app.

The Camberwell and Peckham MP, who is chair of the House of Common’s Human Rights Committee, said draft privacy legislation she and the committee put forward to health secretary Matt Hancock has, so far, been ignored.

Although in favour of the track and trace methodology, the committee is concerned about data getting into the wrong hands due to big tech and the UK government’s chequered history with data protection.

She wants the government to be legally required to delete the app’s data, and make sure information collected is only used in the fight against COVID-19.

The app is being trialled in the Isle of Wight as part of the government’s transition from the lockdown, where it has been downloaded by about half of residents.

Harman has now published the draft legislation, in the hope it can gain traction and be debated before a nationwide roll out of the app.

“Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock has given assurances about privacy protection for the data collected but assurances from ministers are not enough,” Harman said.

“We need protection in law for the data gathered. The contact tracing app involves unprecedented data gathering.

“There must be robust legal protections for individuals limiting what that data will be used for, who will have access to it and how it will be safeguarded from hacking.

“Parliament was able quickly to agree to sweeping powers on social distancing and lockdown.

“It is perfectly possible for parliament to do the same for legislation to protect privacy before national rollout of the app.”

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