New York Attorney General Asks Apple and Google to Vet Third-Party Contact Tracing Apps

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Apple and Google have been asked by New York’s Attorney General to do more to prevent sensitive health data from being collected by third-party contact tracing apps.

exposure notification cartoon
According to Business Insider, AG Letitia James sent letters to both companies and urged them to impose tighter restrictions on the apps if they are to be available in their app stores, following concerns that some of the apps have not been properly vetted.

“As businesses open back up and Americans venture outdoors, technology can be an invaluable tool in helping us battle the coronavirus,” said Attorney General James. “But some companies may seek to take advantage of consumers and use personal information to advertise, mine data, and unethically profit off this pandemic. Both Apple and Google can be invaluable partners in weeding out these bad actors and ensuring consumers are not taken advantage of by those seeking to capitalize on the fear around this public health crisis.”

James noted that the privacy-centric exposure notification technology that Apple and Google developed isn’t being used by all contact tracing apps. As such, she is urging the two companies to commit to greater oversight by only allowing apps affiliated with federal or state public health agencies to collect personal health data.

The hope is that by prohibiting third-party contact tracing apps from collecting personal data, it won’t be used for targeted advertising or for identifying anonymous users.

James wrote that third-party apps should be required to delete personal health information on a rolling 14-day basis, and that the companies’ respective app stores should disclose which apps were launched by governments and which are made by private developers.

“Consumers should always check with the Apple App Store or Android Play Store for information on what entity operates the app and whether the app collects geolocation information or other data,” cautioned James.

According to the report, Apple and Google have until June 19 to acknowledge the Attorney General’s letter.

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