Contact Tracing Demonstrates Need for National Privacy Laws, Lawmaker Says

Shutterstock/DesignRage

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said the technology being developed to aid the fight against coronavirus proves the need for a standardized privacy framework.

Privacy rights should not be diminished in the name of public health, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Thursday. McMorris Rodgers said digital contact tracing developed to track the spread of the coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for a national privacy framework. 

At an IBM Policy Lab webinar, McMorris Rodgers said state-by-state, patchwork privacy laws are inadequate for protecting privacy rights during the pandemic and beyond. She urged for the adoption of a national standard that would protect privacy without hampering technological innovation. 

“My hope is that it’s only going to raise the awareness among citizens in our country as well as those that are elected in Congress right now that privacy needs to be one of those must-pass bills,” McMorris Rodgers said. “You think about all of these proposals for apps and technologies to conduct contact tracing and track the spread of the virus, but people right now do not have confidence in the technology.”

State-by-state legislation will only add to the confusion, both for consumers and businesses, McMorris Rodgers said. She advocated regulatory certainty when it comes to privacy, particularly noting that the internet doesn’t work on a state-by-state basis and thus neither should privacy laws. 

McMorris Rodgers sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is the ranking member of the Consumer Protection and Commerce subcommittee. She has long been an advocate for a national data privacy standard. Though her preference is for a general, nationwide privacy standard, McMorris Rodgers said she would not rule out a COVID-19 specific privacy bill as has been proposed in both the House and the Senate. 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers joins McMorris Rodgers in her data privacy concerns, particularly when it comes to contact tracing. At a hearing in front of the Senate’s counterpart to McMorris Rodgers’ subcommittee Tuesday, data privacy concerns related to the contact tracing weren a critical concern for several senators including Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.

Blumenthal quizzed Andrew Smith, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, on whether the agency is equipped to address data privacy concerns. He told Smith he is concerned the FTC has been silent on the issue of privacy when it comes to contact tracing. 

“An explanation to the American public about how this data is safe, what those rules of the road will be and how they will be impervious or at least highly protected against intrusion or interference, I think it would be very valuable for our consumers,” Blumenthal told Smith.

But many of the lawmakers raising concerns about privacy and contact tracing are not in favor of solutions put in place in other countries. McMorris Rodgers as well as several of the senators who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing opposed the decision by the European Union’s highest court to dismantle the Privacy Shield agreement, which allowed data to be transferred from users in Europe to tech companies in the U.S. 

The decision was seen as a win for privacy rights advocates. John Davisson, counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the lawmakers’ disdain for the court’s decision “disappointing.”

“The Schrems II decision really should be a wake-up call for the U.S. to update its surveillance authorities to ensure that they are in line with the fundamental right of privacy,” Davisson said. “And that’s really the message that the High Court in the EU was sending.” 

During the webinar, McMorris Rodgers specifically complimented the efforts of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy for partnering with industry to develop technology to help fight the coronavirus crisis. But Davisson said that some of the industry partners on the tech sector task force may not be taking privacy considerations seriously enough. 

Some tech companies participating in the task force proposed using location data from cell phones, Uber trips and Google searches in contact tracing, according to communications between industry task force members and OSTP obtained by EPIC. EPIC received these communications through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Google’s contact tracing practices came under the microscope for similar reasons this week. Even after the tech giant, which is working with Apple on contact tracing, promised it would work to protect privacy in its contact tracing partnership, Google continued to require access to Android users’ location data, the New York Times reported

Mila Jasper is an editorial fellow at Nextgov

NEXT STORY: In Bid to Boost Tech Workforce, University of Florida Develops 'Fastest' Academic Supercomputer

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.