We are working with our many customers across central and local Government, as well as the devolved nations to provide additional support and services to help them deal with the challenges of managing the coronavirus.
The NHS and public health authorities are facing immense challenges and we are committed to playing our part in supporting them through this crisis. Examples include:
- helping hospitals and NHS Trusts across the country, including the Nightingale Hospital at London’s Excel Centre, with requests for immediate additional connectivity;
- SMS alerts sent on behalf of GOV.uk to around 43 million customers on our mobile network with clear advice to stay at home; and
- working with a number of NHS Trusts on video calling services to allow coronavirus patients in intensive care to speak to friends and family. This could potentially be rolled out nationwide if other Trusts and hospitals are interested and we secure more technology partners to support a wider deployment.
Our teams are working around the clock on these and hundreds of other requests to ensure we’re playing our part in the national response.
Using aggregate data in the fight against coronavirus
We are supporting a range of national public health efforts against coronavirus. At the Government’s request, this includes providing a limited amount of aggregated and anonymised network data such as generalised patterns in the movement of people to assist with planning the public response to coronavirus. No personal data is involved and individual users cannot be identified.
The role such data sharing can play to help tackle coronavirus has been recognised by governments, telecommunications operators and regulators worldwide, including by the body charged with upholding information rights and data privacy for individuals in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
As we work quickly to support the public health response, we’re mindful that appropriate safeguards must be put in place to respect fundamental rights and freedoms – privacy chief among them.
Having taken account of ICO guidance, external advice and engagement with stakeholders (such as the Global Network Initiative), we have put in place a number of such safeguards. These include:
- Oversight: we have strong internal oversight to ensure we take account of the legal, ethical, security and human impact considerations as well as regulator guidance in relation to the Government’s response to coronavirus
- Proportionality: we only share the data that is strictly needed to achieve the Government’s stated objective
- Time-bound: we will review our data sharing arrangement within six months and reserve the right to end it and require Government to delete the data, at any time
- Transparency: we seek opportunities to explain how we are sharing data to our customers and the wider public, as we are doing on this page
- Aggregation and anonymisation: as set out above, we only share aggregated and anonymised (ie. de-identified) data
- No personal data: no personal data, raw data, or personally identifiable data is included. We ensure data is in a form that cannot be re-engineered into personal data
- Security: we have put in place robust security measures, including monitoring access made to the data by BT employees and public officials alike
- Terms and conditions: our data sharing is governed by terms and conditions agreed with Government. BT staff and public officials are put on notice of the restrictions around accessing the data each time they use it.
We will only share data with Government where there is a fair and legitimate purpose for such sharing in the context of the Government’s response to coronavirus.
These safeguards and BT’s wider approach to data sharing help ensure we are acting ethically and effectively to serve the national interest. The coronavirus crisis is fast-moving so where circumstances change, we will look for opportunities to discuss this with stakeholders and to update our customers such as via this page.