As the NHS Test and Trace programme goes live across the UK, the Pirate Party UK is calling on Public Health England to clarify the reasoning behind the prolonged retention of participants’ data.
A privacy notice released by Public Health England has advised that “personally identifiable information” for participants with coronavirus symptoms - which will include full name, date of birth, contact details and details of any symptoms they may have - will be kept by the programme for up to 20 years. Personal data on participants without coronavirus symptoms will be stored for up to 5 years.
While the Pirate Party UK supports the use of tracing programmes as a public health tool in principle, we believe that stringent privacy measures are key to any successful effort and that the storage of personal data should be proportionate and transparent. Individuals deserve to be fully informed about how their personal data, particularly sensitive health data, is being used and with whom it is shared - and if they are not, they may be reluctant to take part in the scheme, which will severely hamper its success.Thus far, Public Health England has not provided sufficient reasoning as to why participants’ personal data needs to be stored for such a long period.
We also urge Public Health England to provide clarity on who constitutes “those who have a specific and legitimate role in the response” in order to make it explicit who will and will not have access to this data.
We would further call on the government to adopt an open-source approach to contact tracing in order to provide the utmost transparency and verification of privacy. Open sourcing the technology behind Test and Trace and its associated app will ensure that it can be scrutinised and tested by anyone to make it as secure as possible.
The Pirate Party UK is in full support of efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus across the country, but we do not believe this needs to come at the expense of individuals’ privacy and data protection rights. While participation in the programme is optional, participants should be able to take part in full confidence that their data will be protected and secure, and kept for only the shortest time that is necessary to accomplish the goals of the programme.
Now more than ever, we need to apply the fullest scrutiny to programmes that are being set out by health authorities and other entities in order to ensure that they are transparent about how and why personal data will be used. The current crisis should be no excuse for opaque practices or for eroding citizens’ civil rights and basic privacy.
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About the Pirate Party
The Pirate Party in the UK is a fledgling political party. It has fielded a few candidates in European and National elections, but like most small parties it is significantly constrained by the UK electoral system. Despite this, the Pirate Party has started to poll alongside major parties and is looking to build support from the grassroots. The party stood 10 candidates in the June 2017 General Election and briefly held 2 community councillors. Find out more about the UK Pirate Party on our website or contact [email protected]