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BBC Pandemic - FAQ

Pandemic is an app that measures the spread of a digital “pathogen” as it infects people across the UK, in order to discover public health information that could help to save lives during the next pandemic flu outbreak.

Why are we doing this research?

The Pandemic app has been created as part of a BBC citizen science event that aims to identify the human networks and behaviours that spread infectious diseases. The results will be used, by researchers at University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to build a map of movements and social interactions in the UK. This will help researchers understand how a disease like pandemic flu might spread in the event of a major outbreak, and how it could be controlled.

What is involved and what are the benefits and risks?

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary. First, we will ask you some basic background questions. Once you begin the experiment, the App will follow and record your GPS location at hourly intervals to the nearest kilometre-squared. You will need to agree to turn on location settings for the App to function as necessary. At the end of this period, we will ask you how many people you interacted with during this time. There is no direct benefit or risk to you or your phone, though we hope the research will benefit everyone in the UK by helping plan for future outbreaks…

What information will be collected?

The App will not give us your name, e-mail, phone number or other identifying information. The App will only store your hourly GPS location to the nearest kilometre-squared once you choose to start the 24 hour study, as well as any anonymous information you enter about yourself and your contacts. We will collect your location through GPS, WiFi, or wireless network triangulation in order to obtain your approximate location. This anonymous information will be stored on secure servers and only accessed by the App developers and the researchers.

How will my data be used?

The results of the study may be shared with the wider research community and/or published in scientific journals, and it is also intended that the results will be included in a BBC programme for UK/Eire broadcast and subsequent international distribution and on the website, but all data will be presented at a grouped level to ensure you and your movements are not identifiable.

Can I stop participating?

If you wish to stop taking part in the study before the tracking period begins you can click the ‘I no longer wish to participate’ link. If you wish to stop participating during the tracking period you should delete the app, GPS tracking will stop immediately and all data already collected will be deleted.

Who is organising and funding the study?

The study is funded by the BBC and organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University of Cambridge, in collaboration with app developers Big Motive and programme makers 360 Production. If you have any concerns about this project you can contact the research team at If you have questions about the BBC programme you can e-mail:

Important: Your contact details will be retained by 360 Production, an independent production company that is producing BBC Pandemic for the BBC, so that they may contact you with updates relating to the Pandemic app and subsequent documentary. Your details will not be retained after the app has ended circulation, nor passed on to a third party at any time. Due to the high volume of requests received, 360 Production may be unable to reply individually to every person who contacts them.

The BBC Pandemic App received an Invest Northern Ireland Grant for Research and Development.

Where will my data be stored?

The data will initially be delivered to App developers Big Motive. It will be securely encrypted and stored on a cloud-based server provided by AWS (Amazon Web Services). The data will be delivered to the research team at Cambridge University / LSHTM (the data controllers) via secure transfer (HTTPS with SSL) at regular intervals throughout the experiment. Once the data has been delivered to the research teams, it will be deleted from Big Motive’s AWS server. From this point, access will be limited to the research team. At no point will the data controllers (360 production or the BBC) have access to the raw data. Data will be kept by the data processors at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) for at least 10 years in line with LSHTM policy.