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Legal Advice on Smartphone Contact Tracing Published

Related Member(s):
Matthew Ryder QC, Edward Craven
Related Practice Area(s):
Media and Information Law, Human Rights

Matthew Ryder QC and Edward Craven from Matrix, along with Ravi Naik solicitor and legal director AWO, a new data rights agency, and Gayatri Sarathy of Blackstone chambers, have been instructed by Open Society Foundation to provide a detailed legal opinion on smartphone contact tracing and other data driven proposals that are part of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their opinion can be downloaded here.

Its conclusions include the following:

  1. A de-centralised smartphone contact tracing system – the type contemplated by “DP-3T” and being considered by governments across Europe and also Apple and Google – would be likely to comply with both human rights and data protection laws. In contrast, a centralised smartphone system – which is the current UK Government proposal – is a greater interference with fundamental rights and would require significantly greater justification to be lawful. That justification has not yet been forthcoming.
  2. The UK Government’s announcements in March and April for sharing health data between the private and public sector appear to be flawed. This means such data sharing is potentially not in compliance with legal requirements. Further information needs to be provided to ensure compliance and a data impact assessment should be conducted and made public.
  3. Any attempt to introduce ‘immunity passports’ would be a dramatic measure, both socially and legally. It would need a clear scientific basis and would also have to address the significant impact on fundamental rights including the risk of indirect discrimination.