Public Health Emergency Privacy Act Approved to Make sure Privacy and Security of COVID-19 Information

Last January 28, 2021, democratic senators presented the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act to secure the privacy of Americans and make sure there are information security measures implemented to safeguard COVID-19 related health information obtained for public health uses.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Warner, D-Va., and U.S. representatives Suzan DelBene, D-WA, Jan Schakowsky, D-IL., and Anna Eshoo, D-CA., introduced the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act. The Act calls for solid and enforceable privacy and information security rights in order to establish health information.

Sen. Blumenthal mentioned that technologies such as contact tracing, home screening, and online appointment scheduling are absolutely vital to prevent the propagation of this disease, however, Americans are rightly cautious about the safety of their sensitive health information. Legal safety measures that secure consumer privacy could not match up with technology, and that affecting the struggle against COVID-19.

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act is going to make certain that tight privacy protections are put in place so that any health information gathered for public health purposes will just be employed to accomplish the public health reason for which it was gathered.

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act confines the usage of the information gathered for public health reasons to public health uses, forbids the usage of the information for discriminatory, unconnected, or invasive purposes, and inhibits government agencies that are not part of public health services from misusing the information.

The Act calls for the application of data security and data integrity protection to secure health information, for the data gathered to be limited to the minimum required data to accomplish the purpose for which it is gathered, and mandates tech companies to delete the data as soon as the public health emergency has concluded.

Americans’ voting rights are safeguarded by not conditioning the right to vote on any health condition or usage of contact tracing applications. The Act will likewise provide Americans control over public health efforts by ensuring transparency and demanding opt-in authorization. The Act additionally demands regular reports on the effect of digital collection resources on civil rights.

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act won’t replace the prerequisites of the Privacy Act of 1974, the HIPAA, or federal and state medical record retention and health data privacy rules.

According to Sen. Warner, having strong privacy protections for COVID health information becomes more important with the ongoing vaccination efforts and firms get started tinkering with things such as ‘immunity passports’ to protect access to facilities and services. Without the appropriate health privacy laws, it’s possible that privacy violations and discriminatory usage of health information could turn out to be common in medical care and public health.

This isn’t the first proposal of this type of legislation. An identical bill was presented in 2020, however, it did not earn the support of congress.