Senators propose COVID-19 contact-tracing privacy bill

Senators propose COVID-19 contact-tracing privacy bill

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Apple and Google have developed technologies to track the spread of COVID-19.

Angela Lang / CNET

A group of U.S. senators released a law on regulating contact tracking apps on Monday, aimed at protecting users’ privacy by using technology to track the spread of the novel Corona virus.

The proposal is called Exposure Notification Privacy Act and tries to make sure that people cannot be forced to use the technology. It would also ensure that the data is not used for advertising or commercial purposes and that people can delete their data. The draft law provides that notification systems are based only on “an authorized diagnosis” that comes from a medical organization.

“Public health must be responsible for every notification system so that we can protect and communicate people’s privacy when there is a warning that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.” Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington democrat and one of the sponsors of the law, said in a comment to CNET.


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Cantwell’s co-sponsor on the bill is Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota democrat, has also given her support.

The offices of Cassidy and Klobuchar did not respond to requests for comments, or to Apple or Google.

The coronavirus that causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19 was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year. Since then, it has become a full-blown pandemic that infects Over 6.2 million people and over 370,000 people around the world. The outbreak has resulted in cities and entire countries issuing barriers, closing shops, canceling events and forcing citizens to stay at home to contain the corona virus. Some locations have started to reopen, but experts warn that the risk of infection remains.

Companies have worked on technologies to speed up the contact tracking process, which in turn would slow the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracking, which is done in the normal way of old school, is labor intensive because people track down anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease.

Apple and Google announced in April that they were working together to stop the spread of COVID-19, which uses signals from phones to warn them when they have had contact with someone in the past 14 days positive for the disease tested. The technology was made available to the state health authorities at the end of MayAlabama, North Dakota and South Carolina are among the first to use it.

The joint project uses two of the world’s most popular operating systems – Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android – to potentially reach billions of people. The tools will use Bluetooth wireless technology to support apps developed by health authorities, and iPhones and devices powered by Google’s Android software can communicate with each other.

Privacy watchers and civil liberties advocates have warned that using contact tracking technology will lead to inequality in who is counted when governments make public health decisions. Apple and Google have tried to alleviate the fear of data protection by optimizing how the system works. First, it is activated, which means that it is not activated by default.

Still, many believe regulation is the key to ensuring that systems remain secure.

“We need to regulate apps that provide a COVID-19 exposure notification to protect a user’s privacy, prevent data misuse, and protect our civil rights. This bill provides a roadmap for all three measures,” said Sara Collins, a public advisor Knowledge Policy statement. “The bill is a valuable first step on the long road to protecting American data.”

The Washington Post earlier reported news of the bill.

Update, 5:10 p.m. PT: Adds confirmation of the proposed invoice along with offers.

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