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Gloucestershire Business News

Data protection fears over reopening guideline

Hospitality businesses have been warned they face a privacy minefield after being instructed to record customers contact details when they reopen next month.

The Government has told bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses they can reopen from July 4 after being closed for more than three months during the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 safety guidelines include taking details of customers to help trace them in case of any coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We will work with the sector to make this manageable."

But privacy groups are concerned about businesses handling potentially sensitive data without experience.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The safety of staff and customers is the number one priority for our sector.

"We know that businesses will endeavour to assist with measures that allow them to reopen and to support public health objectives."

She continued: "Swift clarification will be needed to ensure that venues can implement a workable system by July 4, with minimal logistical or data challenges.

"There must be appropriate flexibility to enable different venues are able to operate effectively while keeping people safe."

The Information Commissioner's Office said it was looking at the "potential data protection implications".

Silkie Carlo, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, told the Guardian: "This sounds like an excessive and intrusive move designed to paper over the cracks of a much bigger contact tracing failure.

"It also poses privacy risks. Asking pubs and restaurants to become data controllers is unfair - and could see personal data hoarded, lost or misuses - whether for marketing or unwanted personal contact.

"We'll be monitoring to ensure the scheme is voluntary, safe and respects privacy."

A similar scheme in New Zealand saw names and phone numbers collected on paper forms before being destroyed after eight weeks.

It was later replaced by customers scanning a QR code on entry after several privacy breaches.

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