TR Daily Senate Commerce Bill Tackles Privacy, Tracking in COVID-19 Fight
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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Senate Commerce Bill Tackles Privacy, Tracking in COVID-19 Fight

The Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has proposed a bill to address privacy issues related to location tracking and data collection aimed at fighting the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), communications, technology, innovation and the Internet subcommittee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.), transportation and safety subcommittee Chairman Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), manufacturing, trade, and consumer protection subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R., Kan.), and committee member Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) said in a joint press release today that their proposed COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act would “provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, device, geolocation, and proximity data. The bill would also hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Specifically, the bill would “[r]equire companies under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission to obtain affirmative express consent from individuals to collect, process, or transfer their personal health, device, geolocation, or proximity information for the purposes of tracking the spread of COVID-19” and would “[d]irect companies to disclose to consumers at the point of collection how their data will be handled, to whom it will be transferred, and how long it will be retained.”

It would also “[e]stablish clear definitions about what constitutes aggregate and de-identified data to ensure companies adopt certain technical and legal safeguards to protect consumer data from being re-identified” and would “[r]equire companies to allow individuals to opt out of the collection, processing, or transfer of their personal health, geolocation, or proximity information.”

The bill would “[d]irect companies to provide transparency reports to the public describing their data collection activities related to COVID-19” and would “[e]stablish data minimization and data security requirements for any personally identifiable information collected by a covered entity.”

It would also “[r]equire companies to delete or de-identify all personally identifiable information when it is no longer being used for the COVID-19 public health emergency” and would “[a]uthorize state attorneys general to enforce the Act.”

Chairman Wicker said, “As the coronavirus continues to take a heavy toll on our economy and American life, government officials and health-care professionals have rightly turned to data to help fight this global pandemic,” said Wicker. “This data has great potential to help us contain the virus and limit future outbreaks, but we need to ensure that individuals’ personal information is safe from misuse.”

Chairman Thune said, “While the severity of the COVID-19 health crisis cannot be overstated, individual privacy, even during times of crisis, remains critically important. This bill strikes the right balance between innovation—allowing technology companies to continue their work toward developing platforms that could trace the virus and help flatten the curve and stop the spread—and maintaining privacy protections for U.S. citizens.”

Sen. Blackburn said, “Health and location data can reveal sensitive and personal information, and these companies must be transparent with their users.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress Privacy InternetIoT Covid19

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