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Labour calls for investigation into Serco’s data breach of hundreds of Covid-19 contact tracers

LABOUR demanded an investigation into Serco’s role in the Covid-19 response today after the outsourcing giant shared the email addresses of nearly 300 of its coronavirus contact tracers.

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told the government to take urgent action on the breach in order to restore public confidence in the contact-tracing operation.

In a letter to her Tory counterpart, Michael Gove, Ms Reeves also demanded that the government publish the details of coronavirus contracts given to Serco and of the impact of the breach.

It was revealed earlier this week that the company compromised 296 of its new employees by failing to blind-copy their addresses in a group email — making them visible to all recipients.

The privateer apologised for the blunder but said that it would not refer itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Some 21,000 contact tracers have now been hired by private contractors to identify and alert those who have recently been in contact with a person infected with Covid-19.

A contact-tracing app planned for use by the public has been delayed for weeks despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s promise that it would be fully rolled out by mid-May.

Opposition parties and unions say that contact tracing must be key during attempts to ease the lockdown and PM Boris Johnson vowed that the programme would be up and running by June 1.

But in her letter to Mr Gove, Ms Reeves said she was “alarmed” by the Serco breach and deemed it “particularly troubling that a company that is being trusted with some of the most sensitive work in our national effort against the virus seems to struggle with the most basic aspects of data privacy.”

“To ease the lockdown restrictions a proper system of test, trace and isolate needs to be in place. The government needs to make sure it is and that the public have faith in it.”

Ms Reeves also questioned the involvement of Serco in the programme after a Serious Fraud Office investigation led to a £22.9-million fine and the arrest of two individuals last year. She also cited its substandard performance on other government contracts, which it continues to receive despite frequent controversies.

Ms Reeves urged Mr Gove to state the consequences that Serco will face and the assurances the government has been given that it can be trusted with data of workers and the public.

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