Apple responds to Senate concerns about COVID-19 app privacy

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple last week responded to a letter from several Democratic senators who inquired about the data privacy policies of the company's COVID-19 screening tools.

Apple's COVID-19 app. Credit: Apple
Apple's COVID-19 app. Credit: Apple


On April 3, Senators Bob Menendez, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed concern over how confidential health data is handled in Apple's coronavirus app and website.

In a letter dated Thursday, Timothy Powderly, Apple's senior director of government affairs, responded to some of those questions and outlined the privacy protections baked into the COVID-19 screening app and website. The app and website were created in partnership with the CDC, FEMA and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

For example, Apple says that it doesn't collect any information other than non-personally identifiable app usage and crash data. That data is then kept only as long as necessary to "support the operation of the COVID-19 website and app." It also pledged not to share or resell any data collected with third parties, or use it for commercial purposes.

Because end users are the ones inputting data into the systems, the tools aren't governed under HIPAA guidelines. Any user-inputted data sent through the portal is encrypted during transport. Apple also said that the app and website are accessible to people with disabilities.

In the letter, Apple added that it "drew upon its engineering and clinical resources" to develop the tools at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bloomberg reported on Apple's response earlier today.

The Apple COVID-19 app and website launched in late March and contain tools that let users assess coronavirus risk, symptoms and recent exposures. The app was updated on Thursday with a new state guideline portal, as well as self-care and emergency tips.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,590member
    memo: “No. Just...no,”
  • Reply 2 of 9
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,254member
    I think it’s wonderful that Apple is taking the lead here and showing that you can have incredible functionality without compromising individual privacy. They seemed exceptionally quick to develop this framework for managing the Bluetooth connections. I wonder if this is simply related to the work they are rumoured to have been doing with tile tracking.


    cornchip
  • Reply 3 of 9
    NO PERSONALLY-IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION 
    tyler82
  • Reply 4 of 9
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 969member
    How many cyber security experts are in congress?

    I believe the answer to be zero. And in 2020, that should make you really nervous.
    gilly33FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 9
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,181member
    tyler82 said:
    How many cyber security experts are in congress?

    I believe the answer to be zero. And in 2020, that should make you really nervous.
    There might be at least one considered to be an expert, Congressman Ted Lieu of California. 
    ronnCarnage
  • Reply 6 of 9
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,302member
    If they are to manage this properly, the American government needs to know the extent of this epidemic, who and how many have been infected, who and how many have recovered (or died) and where it is moving and how quickly, as well as where new cases are coming from.

    Unfortunately, Americans no longer trust their own government to know those things.   Sigh...
    13485applguyFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 9
    1348513485 Posts: 190member
    If they are to manage this properly, the American government needs to know the extent of this epidemic, who and how many have been infected, who and how many have recovered (or died) and where it is moving and how quickly, as well as where new cases are coming from.

    Unfortunately, Americans no longer trust their own government to know those things.   Sigh...
    Agreed. This will be extremely useful information not only for Covid-19 but future outbreaks in terms of patterning, timing and the effects of various controls.The data may reveal trends that are not be apparent right now.

    CDC would ordinarily be the sourcing for such data, but for various well-known reasons they are going to need this third party solution.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,302member
    13485 said:
    If they are to manage this properly, the American government needs to know the extent of this epidemic, who and how many have been infected, who and how many have recovered (or died) and where it is moving and how quickly, as well as where new cases are coming from.

    Unfortunately, Americans no longer trust their own government to know those things.   Sigh...
    Agreed. This will be extremely useful information not only for Covid-19 but future outbreaks in terms of patterning, timing and the effects of various controls.The data may reveal trends that are not be apparent right now.

    CDC would ordinarily be the sourcing for such data, but for various well-known reasons they are going to need this third party solution.
    Wait!   "Future Outbreaks"?   You mean this isn't going to be the last one?
    I thought this was like that war 100 years ago:   "The War to End All Wars!"
    ... Oh wait!   Never mind....

    I guess we should get thing geared up again -- not only for this one but the next.  and the next.  and the...

    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 9
    Apple responds to Senate concerns about COVID-19 app privacy:

    "We posted articles about how this works, you numb-nuts. Have somebody smart read them for you."

    /s. Mostly.

    (edited for line breaks)
    edited April 2020
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