Review says significant technical limitations, and deep social risks, of digital contact tracing outweigh the value offered to the crisis response.
The Ad Lovelace Institute, whose mission is to ‘ensure that data and AI work for people and society’ has published a rapid review of evidence for “whether, and how, the UK Government should use technology to transition from the COVID-19 global public health crisis.”
The report examines the potential development and implementation of technical solutions to support symptom tracking, contact tracing and immunity certification. In doing so, its analysis takes into account societal, political, legal and ethical perspectives, and gives findings and recommendations for the transition and rebuild phases that follow containment, delay and mitigation.
There are three interlocking technical interventions under consideration in the UK, as well as in other countries around the world: symptom tracking applications, digital contact tracing applications and digital immunity certificates. There is a particularly urgent need to assess the efficacy and impact of digital contact tracing applications as one such application is presently under development by the NHS. Based on the current evidence in the review, the significant technical limitations, and deep social risks, of digital contact tracing outweigh the value offered to the crisis response.
The report recommends two accountability mechanisms to bookend government decision making – the establishment of the Group of Advisors on Technology for Emergencies to act as gatekeeper for the deployment of technical measures, and the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism to conduct real-time scrutiny of Government policy formulation.
The report is divided into key takeaways for government, parliament and technology providers and developers.
For the UK government
For technology providers and developers