U.S. Senator Warns of Google, Apple Abusing Coronavirus Tracking Data

Senator Richard Blumenthal said on Wednesday that smartphone software makers Alphabet’s Google and Apple will have to convince the public that any apps to help track who has been exposed to new coronavirus will not lead to a violation of their privacy.

“Apple and Google have a lot of work to do to convince a rightfully skeptical public that they are fully serious about the privacy and security of their contact tracing efforts,’’ said Blumenthal in an email statement.

According to Reuters, a critical factor in re-opening economies shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic is the ability to track and identify who has come into contact with carriers so that public health officials can control a resurgence of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

Apple and Google said that they were collaborating on apps that can identify people who have crossed paths with a contagious person and alert them. The idea was well received by the public, although some people think that it violates several human rights. 

Blumenthal, who has been outspoken about privacy issues raised by Google and Apple, said:

“I urgently want to know how Apple and Google will assure that consumers’ privacy interests are strongly balanced with the legitimate needs of public health officials during the coronavirus pandemic.’’

“A public health crisis cannot be a pretense to pave over our privacy laws or legitimize tech companies’ intrusive data collection about American personal lives,’’ added Blumenthal.

Both Google and Apple had no comment on Blumenthal remarks but said that privacy, transparency, and consent are most important when it comes to their customers.

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