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AG asks Apple, Google contact tracing apps serve public health purpose

Posted at 10:47 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 10:47:24-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general, has requested Google and Apple to make sure all contact tracing and exposure notification apps related to COVID-19 protect consumers' personal information, the attorney general's office said in a news release.

The coalition is asking Google and Apple to guarantee all contact tracing and exposure notification apps related to COVID-19 "are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and Apple App Store once they're no longer needed by public health authorities, according to the attorney general's office.

The coalition sent a letter Tuesday to the chief executive officers of Apple and Google, acknowledging that although digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are useful in understanding the spread of COVID-19, they can also put a risk on consumers' privacy, Nessel's office said.

"Technology can provide valuable resources like digital contact tracing and enhance our understanding of this deadly virus, but that tool must be wielded appropriately so it does not infringe upon the privacy of our residents,” Nessel said. “Google and Apple must minimize these risks to consumers’ personal information, including sensitive health information.”

The AG's office said the coalition has concerns with contact tracing and exposure notification apps available to people in Google Play and the App Store, particularly the "free" apps that use GPS tracking, offer in-app purchases and aren't affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution.

As outlined in the news release, the letter sent by the coalition asks both Google and Apple to do the following:

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; and3. Pledge to remove all COVID-19/coronavirus-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps 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.

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