Government ‘asks O2 to hand over anonymous mobile phone location data to check whether people are following coronavirus social distances guidelines’
The Government has allegedly asked mobile phone network O2 to hand over user location data to ensure people in Britain are following social distancing guidelines.
The data is expected to stay anonymous and will help ministers ensure people obey the guidance issued this week amid the coronavirus outbreak, reported Sky News.
Some Twitter users were incensed by the news, with one saying ‘I will leave O2 if this happens’ and another asking: ‘Isn’t that a breach of privacy and human rights?’
The Government has allegedly asked mobile phone network O2 (file picture) to hand over user location data to ensure people in Britain are following social distancing guidelines
But others claimed the move would not be a breach of privacy if the data remains anonymous, and instead be a ‘useful tracker of where potentially virus carriers are’.
It comes as it was revealed the UK’s major mobile operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to allow customers to access NHS advice about the virus for free.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the networks have all agreed to let customers go to www.nhs.uk and 111.nhs.uk without any data costs.
The initiative has been designed to ensure that everyone can get verified and up-to-date NHS information and advice on the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, a mass switch to home working appeared to have left Britain’s broadband and mobile phone networks creaking.
Both O2 and Three mobile services admitted to problems on Tuesday with their voice call systems as millions tried to work from home for the first time.
At the same time users of the two other major networks – EE and Vodafone – reported issues, according to the network status monitoring website Down Detector.
The same company identified problems with the mobile service and internet cable services provided by Virgin Media and BT before lunchtime.
The companies said it was a short term technical issue, rather than due to extra demand. But any network problems will make working from home more difficult.
A study by telecoms regulator Ofcom found that just 66 per cent cent of the UK’s land area is covered by good 4G reception from all four networks.
At the same time, much of Britain relies on internet services sent down ancient copper wires, which struggle to cope with traffic when there is high demand.
An O2 spokesman has been contacted for comment about the Sky News report.