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Digital rights groups express concern over COVID-19 datastore

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Digital rights groups express concern over COVID-19 datastore

A group of digital rights organisations have expressed concern over plans for a new NHS COVID-19 datastore, warning UK health secretary Matt Hancock that “transparency has been lacking”.

The UK Government first announced plans for the datastore in March, in an attempt to track the spread of COVID-19 and how it will impact on the NHS and social care services.

But in an open letter, 27 organisations and advocates said that the plans, based on Microsoft, Google, Palantir, Faculty and Amazon assisting in the development of the datastore, would give private partners control over sensitive data.

 The signatories, which include Liberty, the Open Knowledge Foundation and Big Brother Watch, warned the “opacity in which these agreements are made do not help building this trust”.

 The letter says: “Emergencies require rapid responses, but these responses should also be appropriate, lawful and just. It’s unlikely that the NHS’s current plan to build a large-scale COVID-19 datastore meets those principles.

“We understand the need for better health information, but maintain that the public should be consulted throughout the development of the datastore and be able to obtain adequate information about the data sharing agreements in place.

“We urge the NHS to provide answers to all of the questions below and to not proceed with the development of the datastore until the public has had a chance to have their say.”

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