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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

NHS collecting third party app data to map Covid-19 threat

A new government project called OASIS – established by a partnership between NHSX, the health service’s digital arm, and the jHub, an innovation body in charge of technology projects for the UK armed forces – will suck up data from a range of approved third party apps to help model the evolving threat of Covid-19 across the UK.

The UK’s NHSX contact tracing app has been piloted in the Isle of Wight over the past week, and reports point to it being rolled out nation-wide by the end of May. However, there is a patchwork of health apps already collecting data about Covid-19 symptoms.

The apps which will feed information to the OASIS project so far include Agitate Ink C-19, Connected Cognition, Corona-Help.UK, Evergreen Life, Let’s Beat COVID-19, TrackTogether, and Your.MD. All have been assessed according to the NHS Digital Health Technology Standard or against the Digital Assessment Questionnaire (DAQ), NHSX has said.

This project aims to create a population (national and local) level modelling tool. To this end, it won’t collect any personally identifiable symptoms through the apps, merely data relating to symptom reporting (i.e. the type of symptom and the severity). jHub, the assigned data processor, will apparently be cleansing the data further of any potentially identifying information that might’ve slipped through the cracks.

The website reads that the data will help the NHS respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the time of writing, NHSX had not responded to a request for more specific information. For example, Peter Thiel’s US data-mining company Palantir and UK data science company Faculty are currently supporting a project processing sensitive NHS health data for the purpose of NHS resource planning.

A spokesperson from NHSX pointed out that the OASIS project data was being held and processed at a different site to the one Faculty and Palantir were working at, but didn’t expressly rule out that the data could be fed into this model (at the time of publication).

jHub may seem an odd choice for the project given it’s the innovation arm of the Ministry of Defence. Its website reads that it’s primarily concerned with sourcing market-ready or near-market ready military tech across areas such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and blockchain.