Ministers ‘order NHS app that tracks people’s movements’ to speed up lifting of coronavirus lockdown


Ministers ‘order NHS mobile phone app that tracks people’s movements’ to allow the coronavirus lockdown to be lifted

  • NHSX is said to be working on software which uses bluetooth technology 
  • It would alert users when they are near someone who has tested positive
  • Move would require the Government to track movement of millions of people 
  • Ex-MI5 chief Lord Evans  warned that any phone tracking must be done carefully
  • He said tight rules must govern use and allow challenge to avoid privacy lacklash
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Lord Jonathan Evans, who led Britain’s domestic security service from 2007 to 2013, said that existing technology used in counter-terrorism and organised crime probes could be used.

Ministers have demanded NHS tech experts create a mobile phone app that could allow them to lift the stringent lock-down that has brought Britain to a halt.

NHSX, the health service’s technological arm, is said to be working on software which uses bluetooth technology to warn those who download it when they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

They hope that the project, which involves Google and Apple, who run the two main smartphone operating systems, combined with massive increases in testing, could allow the lockdown to be lifted by the end of May.

“We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality,” a source told the Sunday Times.

A further 979 coronavirus deaths were announced yesterday, bringing the total in the UK to 9,937. It means that the UK is almost certain to break the 10,000 fatality when new numbers are announced later today.

However, the announcement came as a former head of MI5 warned ministers there had to be powerful ‘oversight and accountability’ if the public is going to accept such an invasion of privacy.

Lord Jonathan Evans, who led Britain’s domestic security service from 2007 to 2013, said that existing technology used in counter-terrorism and organised crime probes could be used.

NHSX, the health service's technological arm, is said to be working on software which uses bluetooth technology to warn those who download it when they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

NHSX, the health service’s technological arm, is said to be working on software which uses bluetooth technology to warn those who download it when they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

They hope that the project, which involves Google and Apple, who run the two main smartphone operating systems, combined with massive increases in testing, could allow the lockdown to be lifted by the end of May

 They hope that the project, which involves Google and Apple, who run the two main smartphone operating systems, combined with massive increases in testing, could allow the lockdown to be lifted by the end of May

But he said that such measures – which amount to tracking the movements of millions of innocent British citizens, would have to be done carefully if they were not to provoke a human rights backlash on privacy grounds.

There must be oversight and accountability. Tough surveillance powers are acceptable where there are equally tough oversight and accountability that ensures the powers are applied lawfully, proportionately and only where necessary,’ he told the Sunday Times.

‘This is now the case for anti-terrorism and the same must apply to health. And there must be redress. 

‘People who believe their privacy has been improperly invaded need to have a way of getting their complaint independently investigated.

‘Against the background of the lockdown, people may consider the kind of surveillance needed to keep Covid-19 at bay a price worth paying, but public confidence will be retained in the longer term only if the right controls and accountability are in place.’

 

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