Press Release Broadband Privacy

Public Knowledge Warns Proposed COVID-19 Data Privacy Bill Fails to Protect Americans’ Privacy

April 30, 2020 , , , , ,

Today, Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss), John Thune (R-SD), Jerry Moran (R-Kan), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) announced plans to introduce the “COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act” in an effort to protect Americans’ privacy during the pandemic. Public Knowledge finds that the proposed legislation fails to provide privacy protection for consumers and lacks enforcement teeth.

The following can be attributed to Sara Collins, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“This bill provides little protection for Americans’ privacy during the COVID-19 epidemic. Companies may still profit from selling health information or geolocation data, and are allowed to infer who has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The only ‘restrictions’ apply to data specifically collected for coronavirus contact tracing. Even these limited protections fail to apply to law enforcement or federal agencies. The bill gives no new resources to the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law, no new enforcement powers, and — despite reference to any FTC rules — no new rulemaking authority. 

“To make matters worse, the bill gratuitously preempts the much stronger FCC privacy protections governing mobile carriers. These protections have been used  to ensure data on mobile phones are not shared with third parties without the user’s permission. As a final insult to consumer privacy, the bill would preempt the states from adopting or enforcing any stricter privacy protections in the absence of strong federal protections at the FTC. 

“In this time of crisis, Americans need strong privacy protection they can trust, not deregulation disguised as consumer protection. This bill is truly a privacy ‘cure’ worse than the disease.”