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Monday, March 8, 2021

As Apple and Google begin to roll out their contact tracing tech, a new bill could enforce strict rules to protect user data (APPL, GOOG)

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  • According to a new report by The Washington Post, the bill would target Apple and Google’s exposure notification API, as well as other contact tracing apps.
  • Apple and Google recently began rolling out their API around the world, but so far in the US, very few states have committed to using the technology.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories .

Senate lawmakers are drawing up a bill to ensure that contact tracing and exposure-notification apps don’t abuse user privacy, according to a report from The Washington Post .

The bipartisan bill, which the Post says is called the “Exposure Notification Privacy Act,” could be unveiled today and would set out federal rules to ensure that data collected by contact tracing apps would not be used for commercial purposes.

The bill would reportedly require that companies developing contact tracing applications to collaborate with public-health authorities.

It would also dictate that users would be able to delete their data at any point, and would require companies to alert users if there is ever a data breach.

Contact tracing apps have already started launching for public use. The apps use a smartphone’s Bluetooth signals to detect when a user has come into close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Apple and Google have teamed up to build an API that public health authorities can build contact tracing apps around. The first app to use their technology launched in Sweden last week , and the companies last month announced that 22 countries on five continents, and three US States, have received access to the API.

However, there are other contact tracing apps being worked on too. Many state public health authorities are currently exploring contact tracing, and only a small handful have said they are exploring the tech offered by Apple and Google, according to responses gathered by Business Insider.

For their part, Apple and Google have put strict privacy measures on their technology, but it’s an evolving platform, and the companies have been continually tweaking the privacy aspects of the API . There are still valid concerns over how users’ data is protected when using these technologies.

A recent review by Jumbo discovered that North and South Dakota’s contact tracing app was sharing some user data to Foursquare.

Lawmakers want stronger protections for tech built by Google, Apple, and all of the other companies and health agencies working on these tools right now.

“We’re all irritated our browser history might be sold a thousand times over,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who is leading the bill, according to The Post. “But when its your healthcare history it’s a whole new realm.”

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