Mass Attorney General Urges Google & Apple To Protect Privacy During Contact Tracing

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BOSTON –  Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined a bipartisan coalition of 39 state attorneys general asking Google and Apple to ensure that all COVID-19 contact tracing and exposure notification apps adequately protect consumers’ personal information and privacy.

In a letter sent today, June 16, to both companies, the coalition agrees that while contact tracing apps are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19, they are concerned that apps available to customers may utilize GPS tracking, offer in-app purchases, and are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution, which may pose a risk to consumers’ privacy.

The coalition has asked Google and Apple to ensure that all contact tracing apps available on their platforms are affiliated with a public health authority and are removed when they are no longer needed.

“Massachusetts has built a robust contact tracing program that is a critical tool in tracking COVID-19 and that takes privacy seriously,” said AG Healey. “As tech companies like Apple and Google take steps to build out contact tracing apps, we need to be sure they are protecting personal information and acting in the best interests of public health.”

To protect individuals without interfering with public health efforts to monitor and address the spread of COVID-19, the letters specifically ask Google and Apple to:

  • Verify apps with public health authorities: The attorneys general ask that these companies verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities. The coalition also asks that the companies remove any app that cannot be verified.
  • Pledge to remove all COVID-19 tracing apps when emergency ends: The attorneys general also ask Google and Apple to provide written confirmation to their offices once the apps have been removed or an explanation why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.

This letter was led by Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson in signing these letters, along with the attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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