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Legislative Memo: COVID-19 Tech Privacy

We all share the fervent desire to safely re-open our state, and for many, there may be a temptation to turn to invasive technologies – from temperature screening devices to contact tracing apps – that promise to stem the virus’ spread while permitting us to return to our normal routines. Many of these technologies collect the intimate details of our lives: our health status and symptoms, our associations, our locations and movements, and in some cases, even the details of our faces.

S. 8448-D/A. 10583-C includes numerous protections that are vital to preserve privacy in the digital age – whether during the COVID-19 pandemic or more generally. Given the stakes as we rush to safely re-open our communities, privacy protections for COVID-19 mitigation technologies are an important place to start. Because the bill’s protections will be meaningless without a robust enforcement mechanism, the NYCLU will support this legislation only if the private right of action is restored. The protections it includes are not just privacy necessities; they are public health imperatives, and they must be enforceable.

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