Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Tradeoffs Of Privacy

Covid 19

From our Swindon correspondent:

From the BBC

The NHS is revising the booking system for Covid-19 jabs in England after complaints that it could reveal individuals’ vaccination status.

By entering details such as their name, date of birth and postcode it may be possible to work out if another person has been given both doses, one or none.

Privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch called it a “shocking failure”.

NHS Digital said the system had no direct access to medical records and allowed millions to quickly book jabs.

It’s rare that I defend government IT projects, but in this case, the NHS made the right call.
If you start adding in full identity checking into that online system, it’s going to take longer to get done. It means building the identity checking code. It means getting usernames and passwords to people. They also need email addresses, in case they forget that password, and their GP might still have one from 3 years ago, so you need to check all of that. You also need a team of support staff to back up all of that, like if they change ISP, or if the password request email goes into their spam folder,
Under normal circumstances this would be bad behaviour. But we’re in a pandemic. People are dying from this, the country is running up massive debts. On balance, it’s a reasonable trade-off. It’s also worth pointing out that when I call the NHS by phone, these are the same questions I get asked: what’s your name and address and date of birth? But no-one cares if the same data is used to verify by phone.
Privacy is often treated as an absolute rather than a trade-off. Most people don’t care if they get cookies. They just hammer at that “OK” button to Get On With It. GDPR cost a fortune to implement, but almost no customers out there care.
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Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat
4 months ago

I’m one of the people who cares about cookies, GDPR and online privacy but completely agree with you about this. Hell, if anyone wants to know about my vaccination status they don’t even need to find out my DOB and postcode to access the booking system, they can just ask me. (Just had my second if anyone is interested.)

Spike
Spike
4 months ago

So once again, Covid “changes everything.” We must rush out on-line booking without agreed-on safeguards because, how many millions did Imperial College say will die? How many “cases” were reported last week without disclosing the sensitivity of the tests? It sounds like the same ad-hoc “principles” used for the vaccine itself, also for a minimal-human-contact Presidential election.

Esteban
Esteban
4 months ago

Agree with both of you. Spike, your point is valid, but once we’ve decided that this is an emergency the rules should change and the box-checkers shouldn’t hold things up like they do in normal times. Amazed that they didn’t.

As to whether the case was sufficiently made that this was an emergency justifying Lockdown, yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of poo.

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