The NHS app – How data can save lives
On the 4th of May the British Secretary of State for Social and Healthcare Matt Hancock urged residents of the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England, to test an exciting new app development which promises to save lives during the Corona virus pandemic.
This is of particular interest to DQ Global, not only because it is a fantastic way of using data to tackle real world problems, but because our offices are on the coast just a stones throw away from the island. Our offices are in fact on the airfield which is being used to fly drones carrying medical supplies to the island.
The app rather unimaginatively named ‘NHS app’, will work by tracking users movements based on their mobile phone location and log them in the app. If a user is diagnosed with corona virus and has been in close proximity to anyone else outside their household, then the person who may have been dangerously exposed will get a notification on their phone. Testing kits will be made available to order through the app.
Mass adoption of this app really has the potential to save lives not just in the UK but globally. There is just one thing however, which may slow down mass adoption. Data Security.
In order to use the app, users must create an NHS login and input their email, phone number, driving license, upload a video and their NHS number. This is a significant amount of personal data, and whilst your location data will be securely stored on your mobile, your account data such as facial scans, email addresses and phone numbers will likely be stored in a database somewhere by the NHS.
There will inevitably be mixed opinions regarding sharing such personal data with a governmental organisation, however if the data is handled appropriately, many will agree that saving lives is what is most important.
This therefore raises the question where is the line? At what point is personal data privacy superseded by a higher cause?
This question leads us on to the usual suspects of data misuse, Facebook and Google. How are they handling our data during this crisis?
In fact, both Facebook and Google seem to have stepped up to the mark. Last year, Facebook’s ‘Data for Good’ team introduced a free data platform called ‘Disease Prevention Maps’ to improve health outcomes for communities around the world. Likewise, Google have released users location data in order to represent the impact of lockdown measures. In both cases, no personally identifiable information has been released.
In this ever-changing world, we are still constantly learning about data security, and we are now learning the life saving benefits that big data has.
Could we now construct an argument to push the data giants such as Facebook and Google harder to use our personal data, to solve more worldwide problems?
Very few of us saw the corona virus coming and yet Big Data and our personal information applied correctly could have significantly reduced its impact. Who knows what other global problems we could solve if we only applied such data sensibly.
In Conclusion, the NHS app is a fantastic real world example of where data can improve, and ultimately save lives. It is evidence that data is well and truly the way forward. It brings data to the front of our minds and reminds us that good quality data has the power to change the world.
With our new understanding of how data can saves lives and change the world, perhaps we will think differently about limiting the amount of personal data held about us. Perhaps instead, we will begin to think about how we can use said data for good in a responsible manner.
This app is a fantastic solution for tackling the virus and we would like to amplify the Secretary of state’s plea for as many people as possible to download and use this app.