Friday, June 19, 2020

AG Hunter wants of privacy issues surrounding COVID contact tracing apps, sends letter to tech giants

Attorney General Hunter Warns of Privacy Issues Surrounding Contact Tracing Apps, Sends Letter to Apple, Google Asking Companies to Help Protect Consumers

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Hunter is warning Oklahomans that downloading certain contact tracing applications to their cellphones or computers could compromise their personally identifiable information, including sensitive health information.

In an effort to alert Apple and Google to these concerns Attorney General Hunter joined a bi-partisan coalition of 38 other state attorneys general in sending a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, asking the companies to take steps to help protect consumers from this threat.

Attorney General Hunter said although there is proposed federal legislation to address the privacy concerns, there is currently no national standard for how the apps should work.

“While many of these apps are well-intentioned, Oklahomans need to be aware that some are sharing personal information and private health information,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Although these practices go against both Apple and Google’s guidelines, there are reports of third parties flying under the radar and accessing this information from people before the rogue applications are removed by the companies. That is why my colleagues from across the country and I are asking both company CEOs to partner with states and implement our recommended actions to better protect citizens.”

Contact tracing is the process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person and the subsequent collection of further information about potential exposures. Recently, tech companies and web developers have sought to create tracing applications to help public health officials and individuals identify if they have come in proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In the letter, the attorneys general say they are particularly concerned about free apps that utilize GPS tracking, contain advertisements or in-app purchases and are not affiliated with any public health authority or research institution. While users may engage with these apps in an attempt to increase their safety, the platforms could be fraudulent attempts to steal personal information.

The attorneys general ask the CEOs to implement the following measures to better protect consumers:

  • Verify every app labeled or marketed related to contact tracing is affiliated with a municipal, county, state, or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the United States that is working with such public health authorities;
  • Remove any app that cannot be verified consistent with the above; and
  • Pledge to remove all COVID-19 related exposure notification and contact tracing apps once the COVID-19 national emergency ends.

To read the full letter, click here:


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