Every region in the state now has an “army of contact tracers,” as Governor Andrew Cuomo likes to call them. These contact tracers are given an extensive amount of personal data such as home addresses, phone numbers, and even names of family and friends.
However, this is now sparking growing concern over the privacy of this information shared with the state.
“You have a ton of people in the community that do not trust that their information is secure,” Senator Gustavo Rivera, chair of the Senate Health Committee explained.
Rivera and the chair of the Health Committee in the Assembly, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, introduced legislation that would mandate information shared with contact tracers is only used for health data purposes.
“Defeating this virus depends on testing and contact tracing,” Assemblyman Gottfried explained. “It’s not going to work unless all those people are confident that the information that they give to the contact tracers is not going to be used against them.”
Reports are now coming out from other states, detailing instances where contact tracing information has been used to track protestors. Immigrants are also voicing fear that their information will be handed over to federal ICE agents, according to advocates. When asked, Governor Cuomo said this information is not being used beyond compiling regional coronavirus data.
“Where you live, your zip code, that is not protected,” Governor Cuomo said during his daily press briefing. “But the other items that are under health care privacy are fully protected. There is no information being shared with any federal immigration agency or anything like that.”
But Lawmakers hope to pass this legislation to help people feel confident that their personal information is being kept confidential.
“You have problems with law enforcement that might misuse this information and you have problems on the community side where people don’t trust that this information is secure so they don’t get tested,” Rivera said. “This leads to us not being able to manage this crisis.”
This is not the first time concerns over privacy has been raised. Senator Chris Jacobs also has a bill right now in the Legislature that would encrypt the personal information shared with contact tracers, to protect against hackers. It would also make unlawful dissemination of contact tracing information, a class E felony.
Lawmakers do not have a set schedule yet on when they might return for the session.