Daily Digest (4/13)

Privacy Advocates Raise Fears Over Apple-Google Plan for COVID-19 App; Senate Holds Hearing on Tracking the Public to Fight the Current Pandemic; Verizon Releases New ‘Email Marketing Feature’. Click below to read.

Privacy Advocates Raise Fears Over Apple-Google Plan for COVID-19 App

Privacy and civil liberties activists warned that the new app Apple Inc. and Google said they were developing to contain the COVID-19 pandemic must be designed to prevent governments from tracking citizens.

The companies said in a joint statement Friday that privacy and security were among their core objectives in developing their planned app.

“People are dying,” Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told The Associated Press. “We have to save lives. Everyone understands that.

“But at some point, we’re going to have to understand the privacy consequences of this,” she said.

Google and Apple said their app would harness Bluetooth signals to gather a record of other phones with which they came into close proximity.

The data could then be used to alert others who might have been infected by known COVID-19 carriers, but only those owners who have installed the apps and have agreed to share data with public-health authorities, AP reports.

Source AP News (external link)

Senate Holds Hearing on Tracking the Public to Fight the Current Pandemic

The U.S. Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation held a hearing on how to employ data and tracking to combat the spread of the virus. 

“In recognition of the value of big data, Congress recently authorized the [Center for Disease Control], through the bipartisan coronavirus relief package, to develop a modern data surveillance and analytics system” said Committee Chairman Roger Wicker.

Witnesses submitted testimony to the committee and will now have a 96-hour turnaround time to answer member questions. 

Several groups interested in protecting privacy submitted testimony including the Future of Privacy Forum, Center for Democracy and Technology along with several advertisers and other interested parties. 

Sources (external links):

Verizon Releases New ‘Email Marketing Feature’

The tool called “View Time Optimization” uses existing data gathered about you to know the best time to target you with a marketing message. View Time Optimization knows when you’re most likely to check your email, and it helps marketers time their messages appropriately. 

Verizon’s special version of this tool logs when people open their AOL or Yahoo email client, so an ad can be sent at the time you check your inbox.

“It ensures emails appear close to the top of the inbox and thus it’s improving the sender’s open rates, click-through rates, and overall ROI of their email marketing campaign.” writes Verizon product director Marcel Becker.

There is currently no ability to opt-out. 

Sources (external links):