Maui Coronavirus Updates

As Contact Tracing Technology Emerges, Hirono Aims to Protect Privacy

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US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) cosponsored the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act, legislation that Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced that creates strong, enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information.

“Americans are rightly combating the spread of the coronavirus by teleworking, social distancing and wearing masks. But defeating this virus shouldn’t require them to give up their privacy,” Hirono said in a press release.

“As we turn to the important tasks of testing and contact tracing, technology should be used to aid these efforts while protecting user privacy—both to build trust in these systems and because it’s the right thing to do. The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act meets this challenge by requiring contact tracing apps and other public health technologies to build in common-sense privacy protections.”

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act would:


·       Require opt-in consent and transparency in these public health efforts;

·       Limit public health data collected to strictly be used for public health purposes;

·       Unambiguously forbid the use of public health data for discriminatory or unrelated purposes, like advertising, e-commerce, or efforts to restrict access to employment, finance, insurance, housing, or education opportunities;

·       Prohibit potential misuse of health data by government agencies that play no role in public health;


·       Mandate data security and data integrity protections like data minimization and accuracy, and require data deletion by tech firms once the public health emergency ends;

·       Defend the right to vote by not linking the right to vote to the use of contact tracing apps;

·       Require regular reporting on the civil rights consequences of these digital collection tools;

·       Provide for robust private and public enforcement; and


·       Allow states to protect their citizens by issuing additional privacy measures. 

In addition to Senators Hirono, Blumenthal, and Warner, the legislation is also supported by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The legislation is endorsed by a variety of privacy and consumer advocacy organizations and scholars, including Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Knowledge, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Consumer Reports, Free Press, Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC), and Public Citizen.

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