Manufacturers of smartphone software Alphabet & # 39; s Google and Apple will need to convince the public that contact tracking technology to track who has been exposed to the new corona virus will not violate their privacy, Senator Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday.
“Apple and Google have a lot of work to do to convince a legitimately skeptical audience that they take the privacy and security of their contact tracking efforts seriously,” he said in a statement. A critical factor in reopening economies shut down by the coronavirus pandemic is the ability to identify who has come into contact with carriers so that public health officials can control a resurgence of the virus-induced COVID-19 disease.
This contact tracking effort recently got a boost when Google and Apple said they were working together on technology to help people who’ve come across an infectious person and warn them. “I urgently want to know how Apple and Google will ensure that consumers’ privacy interests during the coronavirus pandemic are strongly balanced with the legitimate needs of public health officials,” said Blumenthal, who is candid about privacy issues raised by the powerful technology companies. #
“A public health crisis should not be a pretext to curb our privacy laws or legitimize technology companies ‘intrusive data collection about Americans’ personal lives,” he said. Apple and Google did not comment on Blumenthal’s comments, but pointed to a joint release saying that “privacy, transparency and consent are paramount.”
The companies said they started developing the technology in March to streamline the technical differences between Apple & # 39; s iPhones and Google & # 39; s Android that had hampered the interoperability of some existing contact tracking apps. The companies said that the technology – scheduled for mid-May – would not track users’ locations, but their interactions, the interactions would be anonymized, and nothing monetized.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Snapchat’s “Good Luck America” that he hadn’t spoken to Google or Apple, but believed that the public would more easily accept contact tracking apps if they were not administered by the federal government. “I think it would make them feel better if it’s private,” he said.
Apple and Google have taken many positive measures to protect privacy, said Sara Collins, policy advisor to the public knowledge advocacy group. “While this is a promising first step, other measures still need to be taken to make it truly privacy-protective,” she said, including restrictions on sharing and deleting data once it is no longer needed.
(This story has not been edited by staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)