NHSX urged to “follow ethical best practice” in developing coronavirus app

Figures from the tech world ask the NHS' digital arm to protect data while combating COVID-19

NHSX and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care have been urged to follow steps that would guarantee that new technologies used to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the UK abide by data protection ethics.

In an open letter written by former Doteveryone CEO Rachel Coldicutt, the NHSX and Matt Hancock MP were asked to take urgent steps to ensure that the public’s trust in the NHS is not undermined by possible data breaches.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The letter outlined and explained steps that include “instituting a culture of working in the open”, “introducing bold emergency governance measures”, and “publishing clear terms and conditions for any new applications” to ensure such data protection and trust could be ensured. 

The open letter was signed by numerous "responsible technologists", including tech journalists, university lecturers, and non-profit organisations.

Although the UK government has not yet announced a launch of an app aimed to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the development was reportedly in the talks at a digital summit hosted at 10 Downing Street on 11 March, during which prime minister Boris Johnson asked the UK tech sector for support in battling COVID-19.

According to the BBC, South Korea, Singapore and Israel have already launched apps capable of assisting the authorities in tracking users who had come into contact with the virus. Taiwan had also established a system which keeps the police informed if a quarantined user does not comply with orders to stay at home.

The Singaporean coronavirus app TraceTogether was set as an example for NHSX by Coldicutt and the signatories of the open letter. The app does not collect data about its users’ location and the only data it stores is its users’ mobile number and a “random anonymised User ID”. 

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

“These are testing times, but they do not call for untested new technologies,” read the open letter. “Ethical data-driven decision-making requires good governance, transparency and willingness to course correct.

"We ask that the CEO of NHSX and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care prioritise putting the best practices outlined here at the heart of how new technologies are delivered by NHSX, for the good of everyone in the United Kingdom.”

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/security/cyber-crime/355171/fbi-warns-of-zoom-bombing-hackers-amidst-coronavirus-usage-spike
cyber crime

FBI warns of ‘Zoom-bombing’ hackers amid coronavirus usage spike

31 Mar 2020
Visit/security/data-breaches/355173/marriott-hit-by-data-breach-exposing-personal-data-of-52-million
data breaches

Marriott data breach exposes personal data of 5.2 million guests

31 Mar 2020
Visit/development/application-programming-interface-api/355192/apple-buys-dark-sky-weather-app-and-leaves
application programming interface (API)

Apple buys Dark Sky weather app and leaves Android users in the cold

1 Apr 2020
Visit/data-insights/data-management/355170/oracle-cloud-courses-are-free-during-coronavirus-lockdown
data management

Oracle cloud courses are free during coronavirus lockdown

31 Mar 2020