Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

7/20/2020
01:30 PM
Maxine Holt
Maxine Holt
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

UK Data Privacy Legislation Cannot Be Bypassed to Limit Spread of COVID-19

The UK faces GDPR data privacy challenges regarding its COVID-19 "Test and Trace" program. Despite the importance of contact tracing, its intent to ignore privacy legislation is extremely worrying.

The UK government has been challenged on its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance over the "Test and Trace" program being used in England to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"Test and trace," sometimes referred to as "track and trace," is alarming to data privacy advocates and potentially to others who might not have considered the full implications of it to help ease restrictions. Governments all over the world are using a range of approaches to track contacts of individuals who subsequently test positive for the virus. However, a rush to roll out anything of this scale ultimately results in corners being cut. The fact that data privacy legislation has not been given sufficient consideration in the plan of the roll-out is not just a very big corner that has been cut, it's also extremely worrying.

The ability to trace contacts of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 is one of the crucial components to containing the virus as governments continue to ease lockdown restrictions around the world. The way in which test-and-trace can work is causing debate around the globe - either centrally (data uploaded to government server) or distributed (data remains on smartphones until someone reports positive for COVID-19) - as both present significant privacy and security issues.

The UK government has come under fire for launching test-and-trace without sufficient assessment of the impact on the data privacy of the individuals involved, referred to as a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) under the EU  (GDPR), which continues to be relevant to the UK as the country leaves the European Union.

While the UK government has stated that there has been no breach of the data (to date), it has acknowledged that a DPIA has not been undertaken. Good practice for collecting, storing, and using personally identifiable information (PII) requires safe and appropriate use to be assessed, which has not taken place on this occasion. The implications of this are yet to be seen, but failure to adequately assess the use of PII could result in non-compliance with the GDPR. According to the UK's Information Commissioner's Office: "Conducting a DPIA is a legal requirement for any type of processing, including certain specified types of processing that are likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals."

There are plenty of examples of test-and-trace approaches around the world. Some countries are taking a legislative approach, such as South Korea with existing legislation following the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) back in 2015, allowing health officials to "aggressively trace the footsteps of individuals who test positive for an emerging infectious disease." In late March, Germany's Federal Cabinet took similar steps, amending its Infection Protection Act to include measures designed to slow the infection rate of COVID-19.

Other countries are taking a consensual approach, whereby individuals download a smartphone app and voluntarily participate in a test-and-trace program. The Government of Singapore has deployed TraceTogether, an app that "uses a community-driven approach to identify close contacts of users," and has also recently deployed wearable devices for those citizens without a smartphone to use the app. In Australia, the COVIDSafe app was launched back in April, with around 6 million downloads, but there have been significant concerns about performance. Both Singapore and Australia have had data privacy issues reignited as a result of test-and-trace approaches.

Data privacy has been hard fought in many countries. Countries enacting either mandatory or voluntary approaches to track-and-trace must be abundantly clear about how data will be used, potentially even legislating controls to deal with this, if they hope to effectively address significant data privacy concerns. In the UK, it remains to be seen what the implications are of the failure to undertake a DPIA for test-and-trace. What is clear however, is that we still need to take data privacy seriously and ensure that the right measures and practices are put in place at every level.

Related Content:

Register now for this year's fully virtual Black Hat USA, scheduled to take place August 1–6, and get more information about the event on the Black Hat website. Click for details on conference information and to register.

 

Maxine leads Omdia's cybersecurity research, developing a comprehensive research program to support vendor, service provider, and enterprise clients. Having worked with enterprises across multiple industries in the world of information security, Maxine has a strong ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/21/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-25596
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. x86 PV guest kernels can experience denial of service via SYSENTER. The SYSENTER instruction leaves various state sanitization activities to software. One of Xen's sanitization paths injects a #GP fault, and incorrectly delivers it twice to the guest. T...
CVE-2020-25597
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. There is mishandling of the constraint that once-valid event channels may not turn invalid. Logic in the handling of event channel operations in Xen assumes that an event channel, once valid, will not become invalid over the life time of a guest. Howeve...
CVE-2020-25598
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen 4.14.x. There is a missing unlock in the XENMEM_acquire_resource error path. The RCU (Read, Copy, Update) mechanism is a synchronisation primitive. A buggy error path in the XENMEM_acquire_resource exits without releasing an RCU reference, which is conceptually similar...
CVE-2020-25599
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. There are evtchn_reset() race conditions. Uses of EVTCHNOP_reset (potentially by a guest on itself) or XEN_DOMCTL_soft_reset (by itself covered by XSA-77) can lead to the violation of various internal assumptions. This may lead to out of bounds memory a...
CVE-2020-25600
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-23
An issue was discovered in Xen through 4.14.x. Out of bounds event channels are available to 32-bit x86 domains. The so called 2-level event channel model imposes different limits on the number of usable event channels for 32-bit x86 domains vs 64-bit or Arm (either bitness) ones. 32-bit x86 domains...