Covid-19: Ex-FM calls separate tracing apps for nations ‘nonsense’

FORMER first minister Jack McConnell has received backing from Ruth Davidson after saying having separate coronavirus tracing apps for different parts of the UK would be “nonsense”.

There are concerns over the UK Government’s new coronavirus contact tracing app, which unlike similar technology in other countries is centralised – meaning users have less control over their own information.

The app uses Bluetooth to detect if you have been close to somebody confirmed to have coronavirus and notify you if you are at risk. Users will also be invited to upload a list of their contacts to the system, which would allow the NHS to contact them directly.

READ MORE: Data concerns over UK Government’s coronavirus contact tracing app

Matt Hancock has urged people to download the app once it becomes available after being trialled on the Isle of Wight, but the devolved administrations have warned there may be data sharing issues between the devolved NHSs and some experts have said there could be privacy issues.

Today McConnell was backed by the former Scottish Tory leader when he said there is a need for more “unity” between the UK’s four nations, adding there should be just one app across the whole of the UK.

The former Scottish Labour leader told ITV Border: “I understand how hard the job is at the moment for both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson. But I do think as we come out of the period of lockdown I think there’s a need for a bit more unity, not just in messaging but in the systems that are put in place. And I’m particularly concerned about these apps.

“Of course the decisions need to be made autonomously in Edinburgh, Cardiff and in Belfast, and of course in London, but I do think that we should be having for example one tracing app across the whole of the UK.”

The Labour peer went on: “People travel to work across the English/Scottish border, people travel to meet family across the English/Scottish border. I think it would be nonsense if there were different apps operating in different parts of the UK. So I would strongly recommend that the health secretaries in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast need to sit down and make an agreement on this that works for everybody and not go off in their own directions even though the decisions are autonomous and they have a right to do so.”

Davidson said McConnell was “talking sense”.

In the Scottish Government’s own paper on contact tracing, ministers said they are working on their own app but would like to be involved in the UK Government project.

They said: “This is a UK Government led project – which we understand will be trialled soon – and we are seeking to ensure greater involvement for the Scottish Government in its development.

“In particular, we need to understand how data from this app will interface with the Scottish approach to contact tracing.”

Meanwhile Dr Orla Lynskey, associated professor of law at the London School of Economics, told MPs she had privacy concerns.

She said: “Location data is inherently, incredibly sensitive – it says where you were at a certain point in time: were you at the doctor, were you at the counsellor, were you at the sexual health clinic? There is an inherent risk that if you create a system that can be added to incrementally, you could do so in a way that is very privacy invasive.”

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