Bipartisan Bill Presented to Secure Privacy of COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Exposure Notification Apps

A bipartisan group of Senators presented a bill which seeks to control the use of contact tracing and exposure notification applications for dealing with the spread of COVID-19.

The Exposure Notification Privacy Act is just one of the three bills introduced to control contact tracing applications for the privacy protection of Americans. The other two bills were unable to solicit sufficient support. Hopefully, a bipartisan bill will get a better possibility of being approved.

Technologies in contact tracing and exposure notification are being considered as a means of managing the spread of COVID-19. Both Google and Apple have created the systems necessary for contact tracing through the mobile phone’s low energy Bluetooth. If a user installs a contact tracing application, encounters with another person who has also installed the application will be logged. In case a person is determined to be COVID-19 positive, the logged information in the app will be employed to inform all persons who might be infected because of that individual.

Contact tracing and exposure notification applications are being used in some countries to lessen the spread of COVID-19, however there are risks to personal privacy, which the new bill seeks to resolve.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) introduced the Exposure Notification Privacy Act. The bill is co-sponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota). It seeks to give U.S. citizens the right to control their personal information and at the same time give public health officials the lead in exposure notification development.

The bill calls for the voluntary use of contact tracing and exposure notification applications and developers of the applications must impose options that allow consumers to have strong command with regards to their personal information. The bill restricts the types of information that the application can pick up and the length of time the personal information can be retained.

The apps will only accomplish their purpose if large numbers of people will download the apps. That will only happen if Americans will have confidence that their personal privacy is secured and no personal information will be misused.

The public health agency must be in command of the notification system to protect the personal privacy of people and alert them when they could have been exposed to COVID-19. This bill protects privacy when somebody voluntarily participates to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The bill regulates the exposure notification systems to permit only medically authorized diagnoses and avoid false reports. The bill demands that the collected personal data using the apps will only be employed for inhibiting the spread of COVID-19. Personal information must never be used for commercial intentions. Besides voluntary participation, the bill will respect the right of Americans to opt-out and demand the deletion of their personal data at any time.

There must be strong security controls to safeguard personal information gathered through the applications and in case of a data breach, the bill requires all affected people to be informed. There will additionally be stringent enforcement procedures to protect consumer rights. Federal and state regulators will have the right to issue financial penalties for violations.

Through the coronavirus crisis, Americans should never have to fret about their confidentiality and security of their personal health information. Although contact tracing can have a crucial role in preventing the spread of COVID-19, this technology cannot be used at the expense of public health privacy.