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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls on Tech Companies to Keep Contact Tracing Information Secure

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today asked Google and Apple to ensure all COVID-19 contact tracing and exposure notification apps adequately protect consumers’ personal information. Attorney General Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general are asking the tech companies to guarantee that such apps, when available to consumers, are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and the App Store once the information is no longer needed by public health authorities

“Contact tracing is key to preventing the continued spread of the coronavirus and keeping North Carolinians safe and healthy,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “But we need to use these tools responsibly and protect people’s information from scammers and bad actors. Google and Apple must take additional steps to make sure that the contact tracing apps they have available are secure.”

In a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google, the attorneys general acknowledge that while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy. The coalition expressed concern about apps available in Google Play and the App Store that are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution, utilize GPS tracking, and offer in-app purchases.

The attorneys general are asking Google and Apple to protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts by:

  • Verifying that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state, or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities.
  • Removing any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above.
  • Pledging to remove all COVID-19/coronavirus-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps, including those that utilize the new exposure notification application program interfaces (APIs) developed by Google and Apple, from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends.

North Carolina recently began its statewide manual contact tracing program, the COVID-19 Community Team. Attorney General Stein recently shared information about how to identify these legitimate contact tracers.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

A copy of the letter is available here.

More on Attorney General Stein’s work to protect North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic: