The Dundalk Eagle

State re­quests that Ap­ple and Google con­tact trac­ing apps serve a pub­lic health pur­pose

- Health · Public Health · Tech · Mobile Technology · Mobile Apps · Technology Industry · Industries · Apple Inc · Google · Maryland · Google Play · App Store · United States of America · Alaska · Arkansas · California · Colorado · Connecticut · Delaware · Washington · Guam · Hawaii · Idaho · University of Idaho · Illinois · Indiana · Iowa · Kansas · Louisiana · Maine · Massachusetts · Michigan · Minnesota · Nebraska · Nevada · New Hampshire · New Jersey · New Mexico · Mexico · North Carolina · University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill · North Dakota · Ohio · Oklahoma · Oregon · Pennsylvania · Puerto Rico · Rhode Island · Tennessee · Texas · Utah · Vermont · Virginia · West Virginia · Brian E. Frosh · University of Oregon

Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh re­cently asked Google and Ap­ple to en­sure all con­tact trac­ing and ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion apps re­lated to COVID19 ad­e­quately pro­tect con­sumers’ per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Join­ing a bi­par­ti­san coali­tion of at­tor­neys gen­eral, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Frosh specif­i­cally asked Google and Ap­ple to guar­an­tee that such apps, when avail­able to con­sumers, are af­fil­i­ated with a pub­lic health au­thor­ity and re­moved from Google Play and the App Store once no longer needed by pub­lic health au­thor­i­ties. In a let­ter sent to the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers of Ap­ple and Google, the At­tor­neys Gen­eral ac­knowl­edge that while dig­i­tal con­tact trac­ing and ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion tools are valu­able in un­der­stand­ing the spread of COVID-19 and as­sist­ing pub­lic health au­thor­i­ties, th­ese same tech­nolo­gies pose a risk to con­sumers’ pri­vacy. “In the midst of a global pan­demic, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble dig­i­tal con­tract trac­ing apps may be a valu­able tool to help re­duce the spread of COVID-19,” Frosh said. “But it is es­sen­tial that we avoid ex­pos­ing con­sumers’ per­sonal and health in­for­ma­tion to un­ver­i­fied, ques­tion­able apps.” Dig­i­tal con­tact trac­ing may pro­vide a valu­able tool to un­der­stand the spread of COVID-19 and as­sist the pub­lic health re­sponse to the pan­demic. How­ever, such tech­nol­ogy also poses a risk to con­sumers’ per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing sen­si­tive health in­for­ma­tion, that could con­tinue long af­ter the present pub­lic health emer­gency ends. The coali­tion ex­pressed con­cern re­gard­ing con­tact trac­ing and ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion apps avail­able to con­sumers in Google Play and the App Store, par­tic­u­larly the “free” apps that uti­lize GPS track­ing, of­fer in­app pur­chases, and are not af­fil­i­ated with any pub­lic health au­thor­ity or le­git­i­mate re­search in­sti­tu­tion. To pro­tect con­sumers without in­ter­fer­ing with pub­lic health ef­forts to mon­i­tor and ad­dress the spread of COVID-19, the let­ters ask Google and Ap­ple to: 1. Ver­ify that ev­ery app la­beled or mar­keted as re­lated to con­tact trac­ing, COVID-19 con­tact trac­ing, or coro­n­avirus con­tact trac­ing or ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion is af­fil­i­ated with a mu­nic­i­pal, county, state or fed­eral pub­lic health au­thor­ity, or a hospi­tal or uni­ver­sity in the U.S. that is work­ing with such pub­lic health au­thor­i­ties; 2. Re­move any app that can­not be ver­i­fied as af­fil­i­ated with one of the en­ti­ties iden­ti­fied above; and 3. Pledge to re­move all COVID-19 / coro­n­avirus re­lated ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion and con­tact trac­ing apps, in­clud­ing those that uti­lize the new ex­po­sure no­ti­fi­ca­tion ap­pli­ca­tion pro­gram in­ter­faces (APIs) de­vel­oped by Google and Ap­ple, from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 na­tional emer­gency ends. In ad­di­tion, the at­tor­neys gen­eral asked Google and Ap­ple to pro­vide writ­ten con­fir­ma­tion to their of­fices once the apps have been re­moved or an ex­pla­na­tion why re­moval of a par­tic­u­lar app or apps would im­pair the pub­lic health au­thor­i­ties af­fil­i­ated with each app. In ad­di­tion to Mary­land, the let­ter was signed by the at­tor­neys gen­eral of Alaska, Arkansas, Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Connecticu­t, Delaware, the Dis­trict of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illi­nois, In­di­ana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, Michigan, Min­nesota, Ne­braska, Ne­vada, New Hamp­shire, New Jer­sey, New Mex­ico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Ok­la­homa, Ore­gon, Penn­syl­va­nia, Puerto Rico, Rhode Is­land, Ten­nessee, Texas, Utah, Ver­mont, Vir­ginia, and West Vir­ginia.

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