W.Va. AG Urges Tech Companies to protect privacy in contact tracing apps

Contact Tracing

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined a group of 39 attorneys general in asking two tech companies to protect consumers’ personal information when COVID-19 contact tracing and exposure notification apps are in use.

The bipartisan coalition asked tech giants Google and Apple to ensure that such apps are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from each of the companies’ respective app stores when 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.

“Digital contact tracing may provide a valuable tool to understand the spread of COVID-19 and assist the public health response to the pandemic,” Attorney General Morrisey joined in writing. “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 apps available in the Google Play and App Store offered to consumers for “free,” but which may cost consumers their privacy by using GPS tracking, offering in-app purchases and or being unaffiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution.

The attorneys general requested that Google and Apple:

  • Verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to COVID-19 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 in coordination with such authorities.
  • Remove any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with public health entities.
  • Pledge to remove all COVID-19-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps, including those developed by Google and Apple, from their respective app stores once the pandemic ends.

West Virginia joined the Oregon- and Nebraska-led letter with the attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

Read a copy of the letter at https://bit.ly/3fRbfWH.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com