UK data watchdog sees its approach to government health tech during COVID-19 outbreak as 'pragmatic'

Pandemic also behind fall in breaches, according to ICO annual reaport


The UK's data watchdog has defended its approach to regulating government health technologies during the pandemic as "pragmatic."

In its annual report, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it had supported public health innovation, reflecting the flexibility of data protection law.

The watchdog had come under fire early in the pandemic as campaigners saw a lack of oversight over the introduction of the Test and Trace system. In June last year, the Open Rights Group (ORG) instructed lawyers to lodge a complaint with the ICO over the rollout of the system, arguing it breached the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

ORG said Public Health England, which launched the Test and Trace programme, had failed to carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment before processing data in high-risk situations.

Ravi Naik, legal director of the data rights agency AWO and solicitor instructed by the Open Rights Group, said at the time: "Rushing out Test and Trace without following basic legal requirements is troubling. We trust that the ICO will act accordingly to enforce the law and bring some transparency to the Test and Trace process."

But in its annual report, the ICO insisted it had taken a "pragmatic approach" to the rollout. "We have made sure people's data is being used fairly, lawfully and transparently," the regulator said. "The result was that the necessary consideration of people's data protection rights was built into national exposure notification apps, with our feedback prompting changes in areas such as transparency and improved privacy information. We also influenced the data protection by design approach, that ensured data collected and shared was minimised. Our regulatory role continued beyond the launches of these apps and included an audit of the Test and Trace ecosystem in early 2021."

The ICO also reported that it had seen a 20 per cent drop in personal data breach reports, from 11,854 in the 2019/20 financial year, down to 9,532 in the most recent financial year (2020/21).

The coronavirus outbreak was cited as one of the reasons for the fall, although the introduction of mandatory breach reporting in sectors that handle large volumes of personal data has also contributed to the trend, the watchdog said.

The sector that reported the highest instances of data breaches was healthcare with 17 per cent. Education and childcare came second at 14 per cent.

However, the sector receiving the highest number of complaints was financial services, followed by general business, then online technology and telecoms. The most likely reason for a complaint was subject access or difficulty for individuals getting hold of their own data. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • India reveals home-grown server that won't worry the leading edge

    And a National Blockchain Strategy that calls for gov to host BaaS

    India's government has revealed a home-grown server design that is unlikely to threaten the pacesetters of high tech, but (it hopes) will attract domestic buyers and manufacturers and help to kickstart the nation's hardware industry.

    The "Rudra" design is a two-socket server that can run Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons. The machines are offered in 1U or 2U form factors, each at half-width. A pair of GPUs can be equipped, as can DDR4 RAM.

    Cascade Lake emerged in 2019 and has since been superseded by the Ice Lake architecture launched in April 2021. Indian authorities know Rudra is off the pace, and said a new design capable of supporting four GPUs is already in the works with a reveal planned for June 2022.

    Continue reading
  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021