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Britons uneasy about Covid-19 tracing app data usage

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Nearly half (48 per cent) of the British public do not trust that the NHS’s new Covid19 tracing app will keep their data safe from hackers, a survey has found.

The nationwide study carried out by Censuswide examined consumer attitudes to the proposed tracing app, particularly their confidence in the Government to appropriately handle the data collected for the scheme.

Around 43 per cent of respondents said they were concerned that the app would open the door to phishing emails yet only half (52 per cent) felt they were savvy enough to differentiate these from legitimate emails.

A further third said they were concerned the app might allow the government to track their whereabouts and 36 per cent believed it might allow the Government to collect data on them.

Such sentiments were echoed earlier this month by Amnesty International, which warned that the centralised nature of the app risked privacy intrusions.

It has already been test-launched on the Isle of Wight, with its geographically limited population allowing the NHS to measure its effectiveness on a small scale.

Despite the apparent nationwide concerns demonstrated in the survey, more than 50 per cent of residents on the island downloaded it in the first week.

According to the NHS website: “Contact tracing is a tried and tested method used to slow down the spread of infectious diseases.

“The NHS Covid-19 App automates the process of contact tracing. Its goal is to reduce the transmission of the virus by alerting people who may have been exposed to the infection so they can take action to protect themselves, the people they care about and the NHS.”

Jamie Stone, head of EMEA at Anomali which commissioned the survey, said: “At this stage, nobody knows where to get the NHSX app from, so it can be reasonably expected that consumers will be faced with floods of emails with bogus links to convincing looking domains to download the app from.”

He explained that the link will simply be a web page that will ask people for more personal information than the genuine app and the information could be used in future attacks against the individual. Stone also warned over an increase in people being targeted by mobile phone communications.

“There is also the danger of smishing attacks; similar to a phishing attack, but the phish is done via SMS message,” he said. “Due to the smaller screen real estate, people will be less able to check the veracity of the link so will be more trusting and might click it.”

The survey was carried out between 7-11 May by Censuswide among 1000 UK consumers.

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