Amnesty gives cautious welcome to UK government U-turn on contact tracing app

Amnesty International UK has given a cautious welcome to news that the UK Government is planning to abandon its previous plans for a centralised COVID-19 contact tracing app in favour of a Google-Apple model which, the organisation says, is less concerning in privacy terms.

The organisation had previously raised concerns around data privacy and human rights with the NHSX app, and asked the government to explain how it met seven key tests for a rights respecting app.

The human rights organisation says the switch to the Google-Apple model is a better choice, since it uses a decentralised approach where data is held on the phone rather than via a state-run database.

The new model should also be interoperable with apps from other states based on a similar decentralised, privacy-preserving model.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“This announcement is welcome news given the data privacy and human rights concerns which we raised with Government regarding the NHSx app.  

“Amnesty has previously set out the seven key principles that should guide the government’s choice of app and how it is developed and rolled-out.

“That includes using the more privacy protecting decentralised model so that people’s data isn’t collected centrally by the state.

“With this u-turn by the UK government, this is looking promising. We hope that the new app will fully address all of our concerns. However, any app needs to be just one element of a comprehensive public health approach to testing and tracing and beyond.”

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