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Contact tracing app must be transparent and human rights compliant to ensure maximum adoption - Louise O'Reilly TD

27 April, 2020 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Fein health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that the government’s contact tracing app must be data transparent and human rights compliant to ensure maximum adoption.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“There is no disputing the value of a contact tracing app from a public health perspective.

“In other countries apps have been effective in speeding up contact tracing and therefore have enabled health services to track the virus and break its transmission.

“There are a number of ways to get this information and have it available for public health officials.

“It is possible to develop, as in Germany and other places, an app that uses Bluetooth and records on your phone your close contacts without recording location and that this information is held by you on your phone and not shared with any third party. 

“Indeed, it appears that only Ireland, Britain, and France are proposing the more intrusive model where people’s locations will be tracked by the app - while other European countries are using the Bluetooth version.

“In any event, the government must state that no information on users will be held, stored, or shared with external parties – there is no reason for this information be held, stored, or shared by the HSE or any government agency.

“Just as with the Public Service Card there are significant issues regarding privacy and the holding and sharing of data with the proposed app.

“The reason these issues of data transparency and human rights are so important is that they potential barriers to adoption of the app. 

“For an app such as this to be really successful and effective it will need to be adopted by at least 40% of people.

“If there are concerns over data protection and location tracking then people will not use the app and this will defeat its whole purpose.

“We know that the government are conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) at the moment – this report must be published in advance of the app going live.

“Furthermore, the data for the app must be decentralised, not centralised.

“With a centralised app model, the data is collected by GPS and you have to share your phone number with the government.

“In the decentralised app model using Bluetooth you have the data on your phone and the app alerts close contacts and advises them to contact the HSE for assistance.

“There are many international examples where decentralised contact tracing apps have balanced public health benefits and the privacy concerns. That is what the government should be seeking to do, not only because it is right, but because it will result in maximum take-up for maximum effectiveness.”

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