The legality around the Track and Trace system explained - and why you should give your contact details at pubs and restaurants

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 4:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 4:05 pm
Pubgoers are being asked to give their details over for Track and Trace (Photo: Shutterstock)

In reopened pubs and restaurants across the UK, posters and notices asking customers to give their details for 'Track and Trace' purposes have become a common sight.

What is Track and Trace?

All over the country, customers in hospitality venues are being asked to give over personal details, such as their name, number and information about their visit, as part of the UK's 'Track and Trace' system. The initiative is intended to prevent coronavirus infections from spiralling out of control.

It works by contacting those who have been in close proximity to confirmed cases of coronavirus and asking them to self-isolate in order to keep infections contained.

While it might sound relatively simple, there has been some confusion among customers, with pubs, restaurants and cafes often asking for details in different formats, ranging from QR codes to pen and paper.

Many hospitality venues also include the caveat that giving over personal details is voluntary. So, if you do eat or drink out, do you have to hand over your details?

Do I have to give out my personal details?

The scheme is voluntary, meaning you do not have to give your personal details out if you do not wish to.

The business you are visiting is also not obliged by law to take your details or check whether the details you have given are correct.

Advising the government, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said that at least 80 per cent of contacts would have to self isolate to make the system effective - so, if limited numbers of people give out their details, the system will not be effective.

What kind of details to I have to give, and are they kept by the government?

Usually, a pub or restaurant will ask you to provide the details for just one person in your group, giving their name, contact number and information about the time and length of the visit.

The government has assured the public that data is stored for just 21 days and passed on to the NHS, if required, to alert people that they've been put at risk.

Are there privacy concerns?

Some experts have expressed concern over a lack of transparency in the system, with fears that data could be held for too long or used for illegal purposes, such as marketing.

Privacy campaigners say England's Track and Trace system has broken a key data protection law. The government admitted that the initiative had been launched without an assessment of its impact on privacy, but insisted that there was no evidence of customer data being used unlawfully.

There have also been some cases where information like phone numbers have been used by staff in pubs or restaurants to contact customers without their consent.

The Information Commissioner's Office has released detailed guidance on what businesses should - and shouldn't - do with customer data here.