Lawmakers warn of possible privacy abuses in tech coronavirus tracing plan
US lawmakers are warning that a plan to use smartphones to track who may have the coronavirus and who they come into contact with could be used by governments and technology companies to abuse the privacy of everyday Americans, according to a report.
Apple and Google teamed up to develop tracking apps designed to stem the flow of COVID-19 by using phones’ Bluetooth technology.
The app would keep track of people who test positive for coronavirus and would alert other users of the app whom they come into contact with.
The Silicon Valley giants said no identities would be revealed and participation would be voluntary.
“If information about who has COVID-19 gets into the wrong hands, it could lead to things that are harmful,” Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) told the Los Angeles Times.
Eshoo, along with several other lawmakers, have asked the Trump administration to limit the data that can be collected and shared during the contact tracing.
But no guidelines have been issued yet – even though Google and Apple plan to launch in mid-May.
“Without a national privacy law, this is a black hole,” Eshoo said.
Sen. Mark Warner, who has already been looking into the alliances tech firms have created with healthcare providers and fitness companies, expressed concerns about the ramifications of such technology on personal privacy.
“What I am afraid of is some folks in the tech community will use this huge public need as a way to be invasive with private data and create a beachfront in the health sector,” the Virginia Democrat said.
“It is not like the big platforms are coming at this with clean hands,” he said.
Google and Apple last week released a fact-sheet last week to say the gathering of data will be anonymous and will stop at the end of the pandemic.
But that failed to reassure Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) who sent a letter to the tech firms last week. “Americans are right to be skeptical of this project,” he wrote to the CEOs, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Too often, Americans have been burned by companies who calculated that the profits they could gain by reversing privacy pledges would outweigh any later financial penalty.”
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