SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a multistate letter to Google LLC and Apple Inc., expressing privacy concerns regarding the proliferation of contact tracing apps on their platforms. The attorneys general expressed concern that these apps, which are intended to track the spread of COVID-19, do not sufficiently protect consumers’ personal information.
“While our communities continue to address the coronavirus pandemic, we need to make sure Californians can feel their personal information is secure during contact tracing,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Google and Apple must make privacy a top priority as they develop and launch contact tracing innovations. By working together, we can help protect the personal and sensitive health data of millions of consumers during this crisis.”
Contact tracing apps are technological tools designed to help local public health departments identify people who may have been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual, though the California Department of Public Health does not use these apps. Although digital contact tracing may provide a valuable tool to understand the spread of COVID-19 and assist public health responses, it can also pose a risk to consumers’ personal information. In the letter, the attorneys general call on the companies to protect consumer privacy and closely monitor and regulate third-party apps on their platforms.
In addition to ensuring consumer privacy, the attorneys general urged the companies to ensure that only legitimate public health apps are available for download. Other app developers may take advantage of the pandemic by placing new contact tracing apps on Google or Apple platforms that may sell ads or monetize consumers' data without adequately safeguarding consumers' personal information in compliance with our states' laws.
In the letter, the attorneys general urge Google and Apple to take the following actions on contact tracing apps available to U.S. consumers on Google Play and the App Store:
Today’s letter is the latest of Attorney General Becerra’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers during this pandemic. Last week Attorney General Becerra released a consumer alert on contact tracing scams related to the COVID-19 State of Emergency. In March, Attorney General Becerra issued a consumer alert warning about deceptive advertising and scams related to COVID-19. More information on the California Department of Justice’s efforts to protect the public during COVID-19 is available on the Attorney General’s website at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/COVID-19.
A copy of the letter can be found here.