Senators to introduce COVID-19 privacy bill to protect data used in contact tracing

The Senate Republican group plans to introduce a privacy law that regulates the data collected by the Corona Virus Contact Tracking App. The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act said in a joint statement that "will provide transparency, choice and control over the collection and use of personal health, geographic location and proximity data to all Americans." It is not clear how this law will be enforced (this statement says “I will empower state lawyers to enforce the law”). There is a possibility to convince Democrats to embark.

Republican Senate Causes Roger Wicker (MS), John Thune (SD), Jerry Moran (KS) and Marsha Blackburn (TN) said, “The law will use consumers' personal data to fight the COVID-19 epidemic and hold consumers accountable. . "We can create a platform to track viruses, flatten the curve and stop the spread, and maintain the privacy of US citizens," said Vice President Thune.

However, Sarah Collins, policy advisor to the privacy rights watchdog group Public Knowledge, said the law was "a treatment of privacy that is worse than the disease" and has reached "digging disguised as consumer protection." Spokesman Colin said the legislation does not include data that would allow the Federal Trade Commission to enforce it, provide enforcement mechanisms, or provide new rulemaking powers.

"& # 39; Limitations & # 39; only apply to data specifically collected for tracking corona virus contact," she said. “To make matters worse, the measure preempts much stronger FCC privacy for mobile operators. This protection was used to prevent the data on the phone from being shared with third parties without the user's permission. As a final insult to consumer privacy, this legislation will proclaim the adoption or enforcement of stricter privacy protections in the absence of strong federal protection in the FTC. ”

Last month, Google and Apple announced a rare joint project to build a framework for contact racing apps, and although the Senate's announcement did not specifically mention the project, the legislation seems to be about the privacy issues Google and Apple have already mentioned. . This project, an API that allows developers to build contact tracking apps, uses Bluetooth to track COVID-19 cases. The smartphone tracks contact with the infected person. This allows public health authorities to notify them when exposed to people. Identification information and patient location are not shared with Apple or Google, and participation is voluntary. And the company promised to turn off the tracker after the epidemic.


Under the proposed law, companies belonging to the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission must obtain “positive consent” for the collection or use of personal health and location information “to track the spread of COVID-19”. People should be able to refuse the collection or transmission of personal data, and the company should be clear about the information collected, how it is processed, and how long it is retained. The company must delete or anonymize personally identifiable information that is no longer used for tracking COVID-19.

According to Senator Wicker, the bill will be introduced next week. It is said that if this measure gains a half of the support, legislation is likely to be applied to the next stage of corona virus relief. protocol. But Senator Blackburn Polytico She anticipated that the COVID-19 privacy law would proceed independently of the Corona Virus Remedies Act.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he will work to protect consumer privacy. “The crisis has desperately needed strong and reliable protection for the privacy and security of personal information. "As an example, we need clear railings with respect to information from testing and tracking contacts."

However, like the Privacy Act, Democrats and Republicans may disagree on whether or not to include individual rights of action in the COVID-19 Act. This allows you to sue technology platforms that violate the rules of future federal privacy laws. In the past, the Democratic Party tried to include the individual's right to act on the platform, but the Republicans argued that these provisions are more likely to cause fatal litigation in smaller businesses than large companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Jason Oxman, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Committee, said the technology industry is working closely with public and private partners to study coronavirus. “Data and technology tools can help address these crises, but the sensitive data needed to achieve this goal must be adequately protected and limited. "ITI and its members are committed to developing strong and comprehensive privacy protection in cooperation with policy makers in the United States and other countries to respect and protect the privacy of users."

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.


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