Spat over data protection could hinder track and trace work

7 August 2020, 12:44

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

One caller has told LBC why his wife refused to give her details to track and trace when they randomly called her after their return from Spain.

This caller just returned to the UK from Spain where he had been on holiday, in line with Government requirements his whole party will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.

The Government has brought in a scheme run by Public Health England (PHE) as part of border security measures called the Isolation Assurance Service which randomly calls some of those required to isolate to check they are staying at home.

"The day after we got home," the caller told LBC's James O'Brien, "the wife gets a phone call from the track and trace."

The track and trace operator asked his wife to confirm her date of birth, "no, you can't have my date of birth, I don't know who you are, you could be anybody," his wife said.

The track and trace operator reiterated that they needed to confirm her date of birth but the caller's wife was unwilling to provide it.

She asked the operator "can you tell me where I've been then?"

But the operator refused to do so.

The caller's wife invited track and trace to send someone to her home to check they were self-isolating, but instead, the operator said they would call her "ten times."

But authorities will not visit their addresses in person, and will instead monitor one in five arrivals with three daily phone calls at different times each day, PHE officials told reporters.

Staff will rely on clues such as background noise suggesting they are 'on public transport or at a social gathering' to assess the truthfulness of any responses, the Metro newspaper reported.

The public has been advised not to give out personal details to random callers in order to prevent fraud.

Government advice states: "To keep your information safe you should never give out your personal details to a telephone caller, such as your date of birth or mother's maiden name."

When it comes to coronavirus related scams, Ofcom warn "If you speak to an operator, you could be at risk of giving them your personal information or your financial details, which could result in identity theft or financial loss."

With advice from the Met Police saying "as a general rule, never give your personal or financial details to anyone unless you know and trust them."

A PHE spokesperson told LBC: “PHE support the government’s border health measures, PHE has set up the Isolation Assurance Service that calls a random sample of eligible UK arrivals to ask them for assurance they are self-isolating as well as providing advice on COVID-19 symptoms and what to do if they experience them."

The spokesperson added that so far "the majority of those contacted have confirmed they are following the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.”

Currently, Public Health England randomly samples 1,000 eligible arrivals per day into England and Northern Ireland with limited details are securely passed to a contractor to make the calls.

Each person contacted is given advice to understand why they need to self-isolate, how to do so and what to do if they are experiencing symptoms.

The department said to date there has been a high level of compliance and the vast majority of people contacted have confirmed they will self-isolate for two weeks on arrival to the UK.