A group of Senate Republicans is arranging a system to initiate a privacy bill to regulate the data collected from coronavirus contact tracing applications. According to a joint statement, the COVID-19 Consumer Data Security Act will “provide more clarity, choice, and control to all Americans about the collection and use of their data on health, Geolocation, and proximity.” How the bill will be enforced is not clear (the statement says it will “authorize state attorneys general to enforce the legislation”), a possible sticking point to convince Democrats to get on board.
Republican Sens. Roger Wicker (MS), John Thune (SD), Jerry Moran (KS), and Marsha Blackburn (TN) have said the bill will “keep companies accountable to customers if they use personal data to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” The act will require the development of “platforms that could trace the virus and help flatten the curve and stop the spread – and preserve privacy rights for U.S. c.
Yet Sara Collins, advocacy group’s legislative advisor for privacy rights Public Information said in a statement that the law was “a privacy ‘cure’ worse than the disease,” and amounted to “deregulation dressed up as consumer protection.”
Last month, Google and Apple announced a new joint initiative to create a platform for contact tracing devices, and while the senators’ announcement does not directly reference this project, the bill seems to have already resolved privacy concerns that go to Google and Apple. The project uses Bluetooth to track COVID-19 cases as an API for developers to create contact tracing apps, while smartphones track with whom an infected person comes in touch. It will encourage officials in charge of public health to warn people when they are exposed. The detection of information and patient positions is not shared with Apple or Google, and participation will be voluntary.
Under the proposed law, businesses falling under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission will have to seek “affirmative express consent” for any collection or use of their health and location information “to monitor the spread of COVID-19.” Individuals must be allowed to opt-out of any data collection or transmission of their personal information, and businesses must be allowed to opt-out of this. After it is no longer used for COVID-19 tracing, businesses would be required to remove or anonymize all personally identifiable information.
According to the office of Sen. Wicker, the bill is set for a presentation next week. There is a possibility that the bill will be carried into the next step of coronavirus relief if, according to Practice, it wins bipartisan support. Yet Sen. Blackburn told Politico that she was expecting the COVID-19 Privacy Bill to go forward, regardless of the coronavirus relief statute.
Nonetheless, as with any privacy law, Democrats and Republicans are likely to disagree on whether the COVID-19 bill will contain a private right of action. That will include the right to sue tech companies for breaking the laws of proposed future federal privacy legislation.