17:33 GMT06 May 2021
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    Pubs, bars and restaurants will be expected to collect information from their customers to assist the government with their novel coronavirus track and trace efforts, once they start to re-open on 4 July 2020.

    British customers should use the guest WiFi of pubs, bars and restaurants as a means of aiding the upcoming COVID-19 track and trace requirements, issued by their government, argues technology firm Purple WiFi. The UK-based company, which specialises in data capture and predictive analytics, notes that it would be inefficient and less secure for businesses in the hospitality industry, which will start to re-open on 4 July 2020, to have to collect customer data from every person who comes to their premises to buy a pint or order food. 

    Dean Cookson, Purple's Marketing Director, explains why he thinks his company's WiFi technology is the best way to safely collect customer data required by the UK government.

    Sputnik: What do you mean when you say that businesses collecting people's personal details on the door is going to be "inefficient for companies"?

    Dean Cookson: Staff, already with the stress of coming back into a post coronavirus workplace now are expected to be able to collect the details of everybody entering a bar or pub. This is going to be a time-consuming exercise that is prone to human error, which with something so serious as COVID-19 will not be acceptable.

    If businesses are to take the manual approach it adds the risk of creating a congested line of customers wanting to enter the premises, formulating risk for people becoming agitated, and not paying attention, which may lead to accidental social distancing rules being broken. In addition to capturing personal information with paper and pen which has no consent tracked. 

    Sputnik: Explain why you think using guest WiFi offers a better solution to normal track and trace options?

    Dean Cookson: Not only will we capture the contact information of the visitor, but Purple will also automatically log the time, date, and length of time visited through our platform, applying an additional level of detail to the information.

    Making it easier to identify any visitors that may have been exposed to another visitor who is showing symptoms.

    It's also a more secure way of doing so. Having numerous physical, paper logs of an individual's personal details is a huge security risk that is going to be almost impossible to manage.

    Venues will be expected to be able to access the information quickly in the event of a Track and Trace request which will be enormously time-consuming without a digital record while adhering to regulations on securely disposing of data in this way will be almost impossible to manage.

    Purple offers a secure encrypted platform to store information that already complies with stringent privacy regulations all over the world, such as GDPR. 

    We work with the authorities on providing Track and Trace type information already, while the Greater London Authority is using our data to track the impact of COVID 19. Privacy and data security is a priority at Purple and baked into everything we do.   

    Sputnik: How exactly does the technology developed by Purple work?

    Dean Cookson:  The customer connects to the venue WiFi with their phone. A page will appear where they will enter their details. The guidance expected [from the government] is that the required information is name, email and phone number. After entering the information [the customer] will be presented with a unique reference number for that venue which they can use if they return in 21 days. Purple hold the data on our secure servers and act as the intermediary between the pub and the customer, but also between the pub and the NHS Track and Trace if a request for information comes in. If the customer does not return for 21 days, the information is purged from the database. 

    Sputnik: The focus appears to be on venues such as pubs, restaurants, and cafés. In what way would using guest WiFi in such establishments address the needs and desires of the public to maintain their privacy and medical confidentiality?

    Dean Cookson: Our focus has always been on the public, or end-users, since Purple was created. The initial vision of the business was to make it easier for people to access guest WiFi systems. 

    We've ensured that our Track and Trace system protects our users' privacy, so that data collected via Track and Trace is entirely separate from that collected through WiFi, as well as clearing the data we hold after 21 days, in line with the current Government advice.

    Purple do not and will not collect any medical data. 

    The purpose of the solution we have built is to avoid a 2nd wave of the pandemic. We want to protect the safety of the public, as well as the future of the UK hospitality market which can ill afford another prolonged period of inactivity.

    Sputnik: Purple has said that "Hospitality venue owners can not only collect the required information, but they can also manage their venue density, responsibility score, and NPS rating with Purple's Social Responsibility Dashboard". Describe for the average layperson what a "responsibility score" is.

    Dean Cookson: We see a "responsibility score" as a way for consumers to feedback how comfortable they felt in a venue, whether that be how busy it was, how clean it was or what measures were in place to protect them, as well as a way for venues and businesses to track their own performance.

    We've put in place a number of ways of doing this, including allowing businesses and venue owners to track and manage the density of occupants based on social distancing and the size of the venue, and asking their visitors for feedback directly on how safe they felt during the visit and whether they would recommend the venue to friends or family.

    It's important to note, that everything delivered through the Social Responsibility Dashboard is done so in a contactless environment, always through an individual's mobile device. 

    Sputnik: How can people control the flow of their information and exactly what information gets shared and with whom?

    Dean Cookson: Our software enables businesses to let their customers control their own data by giving their users complete control and transparency into the data collected about them.

    Part of our consumer side to the Purple solution is our MyData Portal, this places control of personal data firmly back with the end-user, including the ability to adjust their marketing preferences through a secure and easy-to-use dashboard. 

    The WiFi access journey for customers includes a terms overview snapshot with three sections labeled "Terms, Marketing, and Location" for complete clarity.

    We also use everyday language so end users can be confident in knowing what data we collect, why we collect it, and what we do with it.

    In the case of the Track & Trace functionality, the data is not shared with anyone other than for T&T purposes including the venue, and will only be held for 21 days. 

    Sputnik: Can people permanently disable the technology?

    Dean Cookson: Yes, all they need to do is send us an email and we will do it the same day. 

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    cyber security, personal data, lockdown, United Kingdom, Wifi, bars, hospitality, COVID-19
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