Expert's reaction to government's NHS track and trace app

4 May 2020, 18:31

By Seán Hickey

A digital rights expert insisted that the UK's coronavirus app will collect data from individual users, contrary to what the government says.

The Isle of Wight is set to begin the first trial of the NHS' coronavirus tracing app, as announced on Monday evening. Eddie Mair was joined by an expert in these tracing softwares to help the public understand the government's plans.

Dr Michael Veale is a Lecturer in Digital Rights at UCL and co-developer of the DP3T App which is being used by several countries. The app focuses more on decentralised, privacy-preserving contact tracing, which according to him, the UK's app is not entirely privacy preserving.

The main point of discussion at the press briefing was the notion that all users will have their data stored within their phone and won't be able to be tracked by a central server, to which Dr Veale insisted was not the case.

"Every bluetooth admission from this app can be linked back to a specific device" he said, Eddie was surprised to hear the revelations just minutes after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement.

The NHS track and trace app will come on stream in the Isle of Wight on a trial basis
The NHS track and trace app will come on stream in the Isle of Wight on a trial basis. Picture: PA

Dr Veale pointed out that there may be another issue with the UK's app and how the government has taken a different angle than other European countries.

"The Republic of Ireland is utilising a decentralised system that will not play well against UK app" and could cause problems with travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic and between there and mainland Britain.

Eddie asked for clarification again that the information collected by one's own app will remain on their phone. Dr Veale confirmed that "your phone records your encounters and sends to central server" further scoffing at the claims of the government that information will not be taken from the individual.

The digital rights expert concluded that the "idea these numbers are anonymous is not the case legally" and needs to be clarified in the coming days if not for the UK as a whole, at least for the trialists on the Isle of Wight.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

More Eddie Mair

Texas Republican: Ensuring doors work properly will stop school shootings

Texas Republican: Ensuring doors work properly will stop school shootings

'You don't need a crystal ball!': Furious Eddie Mair corners Tory MP on cost of living crisis

'You don't need a crystal ball!': Furious Eddie Mair corners Tory MP on cost of living crisis

Exclusive
Kremlin chaos: Putin 'constantly surrounded by doctors' as illness throws regime in disarray

Putin 'constantly surrounded by doctors' as illness throws Kremlin into chaos

Tory MP: 'Oil companies have a cartel monopoly' over consumers

Tory MP: 'Oil companies have a cartel monopoly' over consumers

Jack Monroe slams Tory MP's 'abhorrent' food bank comments

Jack Monroe slams Tory MP's 'abhorrent' food bank comments

Tory MP accuses peer of 'hyperbole' over anti-protest bill concerns

Tory MP accuses peer of 'hyperbole' over anti-protest bill concerns

'Prime Minister in waiting!' Starmer saluted after Covid fine resignation pledge

'Prime Minister in waiting!' Starmer saluted after Covid fine resignation pledge

From Covid infection to being fined: Eddie Mair's painstaking timeline on partygate and Boris

From Covid infection to the fine: Eddie Mair's painstaking timeline on partygate and Boris

Partygate fines: Eddie Mair grills Tory MP Sir Roger Gale over PM future

Partygate fines: Eddie Mair grills Tory MP over PM's future

'He set the rules and broke them!' Eddie Mair's tense clash with caller defending PM

'He set the rules and broke them!' Eddie Mair's tense clash with caller defending PM

Sir David Amess' murderer achieved 'absolutely nothing', campaigner declares

Sir David Amess' murderer achieved 'absolutely nothing', campaigner declares

Bereaved father details failings of 'swamped' NHS mental health services

Bereaved father details failings of 'swamped' NHS mental health services

Eddie Mair is to retire from broadcasting later this year

Eddie Mair to retire from broadcasting

Mariupol resident shares harrowing account of Russia's barbaric siege

Mariupol resident shares harrowing account of Putin's barbaric siege

Putin's negotiators 'becoming softer' in peace talks, Zelenskyy advisor reveals

Putin's negotiators 'becoming softer' in peace talks, Zelenskyy advisor reveals

Eddie Mair reflects on people giving large amounts of money to political parties

Eddie Mair reflects on people giving large amounts of money to political parties