UK data watchdog confirms it's probing complaints about spammy marketing for NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app

UK data watchdog confirms it's probing complaints about spammy marketing for NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app

Exclusive The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has confirmed it is investigating grumbles about heavy-handed marketing emails and texts promoting the NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app in England.


Between 26 and 27 September, NHS Digital messaged anyone resident in the country who was over the age of 16 and had previously provided their contact details to a GP. Those contacted had not specifically opted in to receive marketing communications regarding the NHS COVID-19 app.


In its FAQ, the NHS justified the mass email-and-text blast by underlining the urgency of the current situation.


"It was determined a matter of public health importance to encourage people to download the app as a critical part of NHS Test and Trace," it wrote.


"England is experiencing a second peak of coronavirus transmission, resulting in a number of local restrictions and tightening of national restrictions. Encouraging people to download the NHS COVID-19 app is considered by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to be a highly important tool for managing and monitoring the outbreak, and a matter of public interest."


This didn't go down well with everyone that received the message, including Reg readers. "The UK government is spamming people in an attempt to get them to install the test and trace app (what all good app developers do, right?)," one told us.


"I have not opted in to receive emails such as the one below. I've expressly opted out of all data sharing via my GP, anonymous or otherwise. Even worse there is ..