Today, Public Knowledge sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee’s Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA). In the letter, Public Knowledge warns Congress not to jeopardize Americans’ personal data by thoughtlessly advancing digital surveillance technology during the COVID-19 crisis. Doing so would risk Americans’ fundamental and civil liberties, opening the door for vulnerable communities to be exposed to civil rights harms through exploitation of their data. Public Knowledge recommends Congress create personal data “guardrails” to ensure that these communities remain safe — even after the pandemic.
You may attribute the following to Sara Collins, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“Protecting public health and safety does not require individuals to give up their right to privacy. The committee should use this opportunity to question technology companies about their data practices, be skeptical of any broad claims these companies make about the effectiveness of their product in fighting or tracking the coronavirus pandemic, and reinforce the committee’s commitment to protecting consumers’ privacy.
“Unfortunately, we are responding to the pandemic without a comprehensive federal privacy law in place. At the same time, apps and devices are collecting more health and other private information, and the government is seeking to share in this data collection and analysis. We hope that the committee comes away from this hearing with the understanding that we need privacy guardrails in the next coronavirus stimulus package.”
You may view the letter here. You may also register to join our webinar, “How Congress Can Protect Privacy During a Pandemic,” for more information on what Congress can do right now to protect Americans’ privacy.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at email@example.com or 405-249-9435.