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article imageBritish government grants GCHQ powers over NHS IT systems Special

By Tim Sandle     May 4, 2020 in Politics
The British government has tightened security controls over data and information technology systems in relation to the National Health Service (NHS). This through granting new powers to its communication stronghold, GCHQ.
The foremost reason for the government’s move is in relation to the new contact tracing app that will provide data to the NHS about the spread of coronavirus (as well as aiding individuals themselves in avoiding potential coronavirus hotspots).
The new powers granted to the UK’s top secret listening base were set out in a document entitled ‘The Consent to Activities Related to the Security of NHS and Public Health Services Digital Systems (Coronavirus) Directions 2020’.
The document indicates says that the move is necessary to protect the network and information systems.
According to Computer Weekly, the news has raised concerns among data security and computer privacy advocates.
Building on this topic, Irene Ng, CEO,of the company Dataswift tells Digital Journal that the aim of the new measures is to try to counteract the growth of coronavirus related cyber-attacks that have been expanding rapidly around the world since the declaration of the pandemic.
However, Ng states, there are data privacy concerns that need to be considered. She says: “This news is likely to add fuel to already existing privacy concerns around the handling of the COVID-19 crisis for example, in the use of contact tracing apps that many Governments across the world are now rolling out.”
She adds further that this type of news opens up the debate about the ‘social contract’ between society and government, linking to "whether or not we can trust Governments, and the NHS, with our health data. But these debates often conflate trust with privacy.”
Her main concern is that given that global corporations have struggled with data privacy, as they expand into the “big data economy”, how will governments fare any better?
She adds that “There are alternatives to the government model, so we shouldn’t just trust them implicitly just because they asked us to. Privacy (or lack of) is not a trust problem, it’s a data infrastructure problem."
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