Pubs can reopen in England in July
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England’s pubs can reopen on 4 July, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced, after they were shut due to covid-19. Customers will have to provide personal information upon entry to help coronavirus contact tracing, but there are concerns about how the data will be handled.
Similar data collection in New Zealand and Germany has faced issues. In New Zealand, the employee of a sandwich shop is alleged to have used the information gathered for tracing purposes to harass a customer by text, Facebook and email. The employee was suspended.
“Either it will be done in an organised, competent way, which will be a huge risk because it’s quite intrusive, showing where you were, how long for, and – at least by inference – who you were with,” says Tim Turner, a UK-based data protection expert. Alternatively, pubs will collect a huge range of inconsistent, probably unverified data, he says.
Both are problems, says Turner. The former runs the risk of massive problems if any data were lost or hacked, while the latter is likely to be full of untrue information.
“There should be a standard, secure way to collect the data, minimised to what’s strictly necessary,” says Turner. The problem? “Nobody says that this exists now, and nobody’s going to be able to build it in 10 days.”
Pubs and other hospitality businesses that reopen in England will have to follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs the handling and processing of data.
A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data regulation in the UK, said: “Key data protection principles must be considered so that people’s data is handled responsibly.”
Pubs should only collect necessary personal data, ensure it isn’t retained for longer than needed and keep it securely. Customers would also have to be told how and why their information is being collected.
In guidance to the hospitality sector, the UK government asks pub owners to keep a temporary record of customers for 21 days “in a way that is manageable for your business”. The government said it will set out details “shortly” on how to design this system in line with data protection regulation.
Michael Kill, chief executive of trade body the Night Time Industries Association, says his members are awaiting further instructions. “With this, we will be able to understand in more detail the measures presented to the sector for reopening,” he says.
Tom Canning, landlord of The Hare and Hounds in Harlton, Cambridgeshire, is delaying opening his pub until August. “It’s another month, but it gives me a month and a bit to put systems in place.”
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