Herring calls on Apple, Google to protect consumers from ‘contact tracing apps’ related to COVID-19

Mark Herring_58352

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks to reporters outside the Arlington County Courthouse in Arlington, Va., Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, following a Supreme Court decision rejecting gay marriage appeals from 5 states. The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for an immediate expansion of same-sex marriage by unexpectedly and tersely turning away appeals from five […]

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced on Wednesday the call to action for Apple and Google to keep the public safe from COVID-19 related contact tracing apps.

Herring joined the bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in sending a letter to the tech companies requesting that all apps and exposure notification apps “adequately protect consumers’ personal information.”

The request also specifies that apps affiliated with public health authorities be removed once they are no longer needed.

The letter was sent to the Chief Executive Officers of Apple and Google acknowledging that while the data produced is essential in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, the apps also present a significant risk to consumers’ privacy.

“I would encourage any Virginian who plans to use one of these contact tracing apps to make sure the app affiliated with a legitimate institution and read all the fine print before putting your private information in,” said Attorney General Herring. 

“We have all seen how phone app hacks and data breaches can lead to personal and health information being leaked, which is why I’m asking Apple and Google to take the necessary steps to protect consumers.”

Additionally, the concern is that a lot of the free apps using tacking are not affiliated with public health authorities or research related establishments.

The letter suggests the following to Apple and Google:

  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.
  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 of why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, 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, and West Virginia.

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