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Concerns Over UK’s ‘Coronavirus Datastore’

The UK is determined to get the country back to ‘normal life’ soon and are prepared to implement the necessary technology to see that happen.

Over the last few months there have been discussions over the various technology the government is being prepared to help fight the spread of COVID-19. A solution which is currently being tested is the contact tracing app. Details were provided on May 4, regarding the application; and it was then launched on May 5, currently being tested in the Isle of Wight.

It has been revealed that the government is also working on a ‘coronavirus datastore’ in partnership with other tech giants. The purpose of this datastore is to store information of thousands of datasets into one dataset. This information may include locations in which the virus is most rapid, how it’s spreading and where it may spread next. Data will also come from the NHS and social care and from partner organisations, including data such as 111 online/call centre data from NHS Digital and Covid-19 test result data from Public Health England.

It was initially stated by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) that once the virus had ended, the data would either be destroyed or returned in line of the law. However, since that announcement, reports have surfaced that the companies involved would be in a good position to continue providing services based on a very similar model once the coronavirus pandemic has ended.

As a result of this news, concerns have been raised by campaigners from organisations such as the Open Rights Group and medConfiedential, as they seek more information on how the government plans to reduce the risk of data being shared without consent. They have written a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock demanding answers.

NHSX, the digital transformation arm of the National Health Service that has contracted the tech companies to help build the COVID-19 datastore, said the technology would give ministers and officials “real-time information about health services, showing where demand is rising and where critical equipment needs to be deployed”.

“The companies involved do not control the data and are not permitted to use or share it for their own purposes,” a spokesperson said.

Senior NHS officials have stated the operation is only temporary, explaining: “When the pandemic abates and the outbreak is contained, we will close the Covid-19 datastore.”


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