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Why coronavirus tracing app needs privacy safeguards

Les Allamby


The app should only be used for health purposes and should be subject to independent oversight, argues Les Allamby

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A person on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app, which Isle
of Wight residents have been testing

A person on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app, which Isle of Wight residents have been testing

PA

A person on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app, which Isle of Wight residents have been testing

In December 2016 Professor Joe Cannataci, the UN Special Rapporteur for privacy in the digital age, spoke at the launch of the NI Human Rights Commission's annual statement in Belfast. He started by asking how many in the audience were in favour of electronically tagging and tracking the whole population aged 12 years and over. No one put their hands up.

His second question was how many people owned smartphones. Almost everyone's hands went up. Well, he pointed out, you can be tracked whether you like it or not, regardless of turning your phone on or off.

In a nutshell this sums up our contradictory approach to privacy. We value our privacy, yet rely too much on smartphones and other devices to think too deeply about it. Moreover, who has time to read the page after page of complex information about privacy put out by tech companies before ticking 'Yes' and agreeing to hand over our personal data?