COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Apps: The Privacy Issues

COVID-19 contract-tracing applications that help monitor individuals’ possible exposure to those who have tested positive for the virus present a variety of privacy issues that must be addressed, says regulatory attorney Nancy Perkins.

For example, if employers were to mandate that employees use these apps to help prevent the possible spread of the virus, organizations could face a balancing act between safety and privacy, she notes.

“It’s a very tough choice for employers, particularly requiring employees to use these apps … in light of guidelines for employers having a safe workplace,” Perkins says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. Employers need to “think hard” about how they approach employees about the use of the apps, she stresses. If app use is voluntary, “then there can’t be arm-twisting about it in the workplace,” she says.

In this interview (see audio link below photo), Perkins also discusses:

  • The provisions in three contact-tracing privacy bills proposed in Congress;
  • Various state proposals involving COVID-19 contact-tracing and privacy issues;
  • Contact-tracing app approaches in other countries;
  • Potential security issues raised by the apps.

Perkins, counsel at law firm Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, advises clients on data protection issues at the federal and state levels, as well as on cross-border data privacy and security matters, including the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

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