Two senior House Democrats cautioned over the weekend that privacy concerns need to be front and center in the development of technology by Apple and Google to contact trace COVID-19 coronavirus cases.

The two companies said last week they are partnering on the contract tracing effort, which employs Bluetooth technology to identify with whom people infected may have interacted.  People would opt to use the software and would self-report if they became infected, and the software would log other devices it comes near in an attempt to trace contacts. The companies said that user privacy and security are “central” to the product’s design.

“Tech companies’ new feature to contact trace coronavirus cases has positive potential, but we must ensure privacy concerns are considered,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a tweet on Saturday.  Rep. Pallone said he would be following the development closely to ensure consumer privacy is protected.

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who chairs the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, said Sunday in a tweet that she also will be monitoring development of the Apple/Google product. “Tech companies need to put privacy first, and ensure these products and services include privacy by design,” she said.


Schakowsky is a key player in efforts to develop privacy legislation in the House. Last week, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said development of the coronavirus tracking effort underscores the need for national privacy legislation.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.