Coronavirus: surveillance and data privacy

The Government is giving high priority to secret surveillance against us during the pandemic.

Under the Coronavirus Act, new temporary judicial commissioners – senior judges who authorise surveillance warrants – are being recruited. And safeguards have been relaxed so that surveillance warrants only need to be reviewed after 12 days instead of the normal three.

It has also been widely reported that the Government will ask mobile phone operators to share anonymised phone location data, to understand how we’re responding to measures designed to limit our travel and coming into contact with others.

Undermining the principle of patient confidentiality is a concerning step.

And the Health Secretary has told health providers they would be required to share confidential information if it was required to fight coronavirus. Undermining the principle of patient confidentiality is a concerning step, particularly as there are currently insufficient safeguards regarding who patient information is shared with, and when it will be deleted.

It is understandable that information on coronavirus needs to be shared in some circumstances, but this should not come at the expense of our privacy rights.

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