Coronavirus: Maajid Nawaz criticises government's capacity to access personal data

28 March 2020, 14:32 | Updated: 28 March 2020, 14:39

By Seán Hickey

The UK's information commissioner has announced new powers to track the phone activity of Brits that test positive for coronavirus.

By Seán Hickey

Maajid Nawaz was reflecting on the new legislation that allows government to "legally track and monitor people's mobile phone information" should they be found to have coronavirus.

The measures are to be taken in order to find people that the person with the virus has come in contact with. Maajid told listeners how accurate these measures can be by using the example of his cycle into the studio.

"My mobile phone knows the exact route I took" he said. Maajid also pointed out that in the past two weeks, should he have coronavirus, his phone signal would have read with other people around London and thus would give the government the ability to contact people that have been exposed to the virus carried by you.

Coronavirus: Maajid Nawaz questions government's new power to track mobile phones
Coronavirus: Maajid Nawaz questions government's new power to track mobile phones. Picture: PA

The new permissions from the information commissioner means that should Maajid be taken ill by Covid-19, the government have legal permission to "trace [his] movements over the last two weeks" to find out who he's been in touch with.

The aspect of this power that Maajid was worried about was how the government may get away with tracking people long after they've recovered from the virus, and what do they actually have the right to check on a person's phone with the new legislation.

"How long they have this power for, and how much power they have" Maajid wondered. The moral conundrum sat uneasily with him as he put the question to the public as to whether or not they believe that this is a great use of the technology in the hands of British society, and if they trust the government to have unlimited control over UK citizens' personal data.

Maajid summed up the argument, suggesting that "there's always a balance that needs to be struck between the power given to our authorities and our liberty".