University’s Contact Tracing Programme

September 16th, 2020

The University’s Wireless Network, Eduroam, will be used to help manage a COVID-secure return to campus.

Using data the system holds we can ensure we meet national health and safety obligations and support contract tracing in the event a student or staff member becomes ill. It will also have a one-time use, the first time anyone logs on, to ensure the second stage registration of home and EU students is completed safely.

Every time you log in to WIFI anywhere in the world your phone or laptop sends its unique ID to a transmitter, as do the phones of anyone else sitting near you who has also logged on. Our wireless network does the same. This means, if a student or staff member tells us they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 we can look back at the record to see if anyone else was logged in at the same time and in the same space.

These close contacts will then be given advice on self-isolating and monitoring their health, rather than continuing to mix with others and passing the virus on. Contacts who then develop symptoms will need to take a test.

Contact tracing is key element of the national response to the coronavirus and of the University’s Outbreak Response plan. It is important to help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to contain and stop outbreaks. A national app to provide this service is in development and will be something we will adopt once it is rolled out later this year.

As part of our contract tracing programme the data processed is the unique ID of the person logging on and not information about passwords or websites visited. It is already recorded through WIFI systems but this is the first time it will be processed and used in this way.

This specific information will only be used retrospectively, if and when positive cases are reported, and for the purposes of contact tracing. It will be fully compliant with information security and data protection protocols and only stored for a strictly limited period of time. Privacy notices have been updated to reflect the use of the technology in this way and will be available to anyone connecting to Eduroam on our campuses.

The non-personal data collected through these systems will assist with crowd management in our buildings and facilities and more information on this will be shared in coming weeks.

What is Wi-Fi tracking?
Wi-Fi tracking equipment picks up the Media Access Control (MAC) address (a 12 digit string of numbers of letter unique to your device) to collect location data. A device that has its Wi-Fi functionality switched on continuously broadcasts its MAC address, in search of nearby Wi-Fi networks it could connect to. Wi-Fi tracking sensors pick up those signals. This form of tracking is common across shopping centres and cafes for crowd control and security.

What do I need to do?
The data of those logging on to Eduroam will be automatically captured through this programme. You will only be contacted by the University if you have reported symptoms, that you are self-isolating or if you have had a positive test result, or if someone you have been in close contact with has had a positive test. Please continue to maintain appropriate social distancing and hygiene as promoted by the health and safety guidelines.

What about people who don’t log on to the WIFI?
There will be some instances where we cannot collect this data as individuals are not logged on to WIFI networks. No system can claim to have 100 per cent coverage but we have shared our plans with Public Health England and they are supportive of the approach we are taking and the support that this will provide to preventing the transmission of the virus.

Isn’t there an NHS app for track and trace?
A national app to provide this service is in development and will be something we will adopt once it is rolled out later this year. However, until this point, it is important that we have an interim mechanism so as to best protect our students and staff.

Is this new data being collected and will this be used to track what I look at on the internet or monitor my attendance in lectures?
No, the data collected is just the unique ID of the device of the person logging on and not information about passwords or websites visited. It is already recorded through the existing systems but it is the first time it will be processed in this way. It will be used to complete registration for home and EU students and then retrospectively for the purposes of contact tracing. It is part of our legal responsibility to ensure that the University is a safe and healthy environment for all students, staff and visitors.

How will Eduroam be used in contact tracing?
There are hundreds of Eduroam hotspots around our campuses, if we think you were connected to a hotspot at the same time as someone that we later find out has tested positive for the virus, we would like the ability to contact you and let you know what you should do next.

How will you ensure my data is safe?
A Data Protection Impact Assessment has been carried out, setting out how information will be used and the measures we have in place to ensure security and storage times. Staff and Student Privacy Notices have been updated.

What if I don’t want to have my data used in this way?
If you require the use of Eduroam but want to be removed from the contact tracing programme please complete this opt-out form.

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September 16th, 2020 at 3:37 pm

Aaron Jackson

Can you publish the DPIA?

September 17th, 2020 at 9:49 am


Hi Aaron
If you followed the link to the impact assessment info, the DPIA was linked at the bottom of that page. I’ve now changed the link so that it goes straight to the DPIA itself. This is on the University Sharepoint, and is accessible to staff and students.

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