Due to the pandemic, a significant amount of personal health data has been produced, including information on vaccinations, PCR tests, medical forms, and other biometric data. The question is, what will happen to that information and how is it used?
What happens to personal medical data?
In the UK, some laws protect patient data, which maintains the privacy and rights of individuals. This consists of the Data Protection Act (DPA) of 2018, which complements the EU’s GDPR laws, and the Common Law Duty of Confidentiality (CLDC).
These laws ensure that there must be a valid and legal reason for processing and compiling patient data.
GPs and other medical professionals are legally obliged to notify the UK Government if they’ve been diagnosed with Covid. Labs that test for the virus must also submit your results if you’ve tested positive.
How is Covid-19 personal data used?
Your personal information is kept in the Covid-19 Data Store, which the Government can use to identify trends. According to the NHS, the information is stored and processed as evidence to support public safety and develop the best possible response to the virus. One example is to ensure there are enough hospital beds and ventilators in specific areas.
Note that the Government has notified the NHS that collecting and using this data can only be conducted in support of efforts to fight Covid-19.
Covid-19 data privacy
It’s important to note that any Covid-19 information utilized by the Government or the NHS does not identify you. Information is collected for statistical purposes, such as the number of people who’ve been vaccinated or have caught Covid-19. Your personal medical records are still kept in confidence by the NHS, but they can still use your information as part of efforts to improve services. Walter Soriano of USG Security highlights that you can protect your medical information if you wish by opting out of data sharing. Your information will still be used to support your care, such as referring you to a different hospital or clinic.
What will become of personal Covid-19 data in the long term?
The UK Government is yet to disclose any information about the long-term care of personal Covid-19 information. Walter Soriano noted that there will likely be a better indication once the pandemic is nearing an end. Typically, medical records are retained for a certain period before they are destroyed. Therefore, it’s probable that personal Covid-19 information will be handled in a similar way.