Markey Queries White House on Plans to Use Americans’ Location Data for Coronavirus Response

Reporting in the Washington Post revealed the Trump Administration is discussing partnership with major tech companies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic by leveraging users’ location data

 

Washington (March 19, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today sent a letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) regarding recent reports that it is considering future partnerships with companies including Google, Facebook, IBM and others, some of which would involve analyzing information about the location of those companies’ users, to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. In his letter, Senator Markey affirms that the federal government “must use technological innovations and collaboration with the private sector to combat the coronavirus,” but raises concerns about the privacy risks that location data collection and processing pose.

 

“A person’s location information can reveal other sensitive details, such as a place of employment, religious affiliation, or political preferences,” writes Senator Markey in his letter. “We need assurances that collection and processing of these types of information, even if aggregated and anonymized, do not pose safety and privacy risks to individuals.”

 

A copy of Senator Markey’s letter can be found HERE.

 

The Senator asks for response to questions that include:

  • How will any data be collected and stored, and what data security safeguards will be in place to protect this data from malicious attacks or inappropriate access?
  • Who will have access to location data collected for fighting COVID-19? Will you restrict use of this data solely to purposes of fighting COVID-19? If not, why not?
  • Please identify any companies with which the Administration is collaborating to use location data for fighting COVID-19 and describe the nature of these collaborations in detail.
  • Please describe the location data to be used in any projects that the Administration is considering, including the granularity of data, how it was initially collected, how it is being anonymized and aggregated, and how the Administration is ensuring that it cannot later be de-anonymized.
  • Please detail the evidence-based rationale for these collaborations and the specific objectives they aim to achieve.

 

###