Category: COVID-19 and Privacy

Facebook’s Small Business Grants Come With a Big Catch: Your Data

By Todd Feathers

In March, Facebook announced a $100 million grant program for small businesses struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a March 17 post on the platform. “We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work.”

The need is great. As of May 29, for instance, the federal Paycheck Protection Program of the U.S. Small Business Administration had approved more than $510 billion in emergency loans to over 4.4 million businesses, agency officials told Digital Privacy News.

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A ‘New Normal’?

What Does COVID-19 Surveillance Portend for Privacy?

By Charles McDermid

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified fears of a stricter surveillance environment in a world already troubled by huge data breaches and privacy violations, as well as the increasing power of Big Tech. 

Experts now hope the new reality brought on by coronavirus includes heightened awareness and stronger government protections, rather than apathy from a public possibly frustrated by the slow burn of constant data-privacy fears.

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Travel Industry Weighs Privacy, Safety in Re-Opening Polices

By Joanne Cleaver 

As travel resumes, what health and itinerary information will be attached to individuals’ documents?  

The travel industry has its gloved hands full as it rethinks and reorganizes its mission, functions, design and operations.

A top priority for a consortium of industry trade groups, led by the U.S. Travel Association, includes new types of identifications and related processes for ticketing, check-ins and payments.

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Chicago Deal With Canadian Tracing Firm Brings Myriad Privacy Issues

By Joanne Cleaver 

Jacob Furst’s commute from a Chicago neighborhood to his office at DePaul University, where he is director of the school of computing, involves public transportation and walking.

Not that the latest company to surveil the movements of Chicago residents would know: Furst keeps the geolocation function on his cellphone switched off.

Most residents aren’t as meticulous about shielding their routine movements from BlueDot, a Toronto company that is under contract with the city’s Department of Health to see how people are moving around the city and to extract from that data clues as to how to manage and anticipate COVID-19 patterns.

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On the COVID Front Lines

Protecting Privacy or ‘Outing’ Patients in Contact-Tracing

By Tammy Joyner

At 86, Wilhelmina Wilson takes no chances when it comes to safeguarding her health during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

She stays squirreled away in her one-bedroom co-op apartment in Queens, where she has lived since 1976.

When she ventures out, she’s armed with disinfectant sprays and wipes for elevator buttons and doorknobs to the building’s incinerator and laundry room.

She’s en garde anytime she hears of new COVID-19 infections.

Still, Wilson worries.

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Is the US Heading Toward a Surveillance State?

By Charles McDermid

As Silicon Valley gears up to help Washington fight the COVID-19 pandemic, concern is intensifying that the United States still lacks the legal framework needed to protect data privacy during and after the public-health crisis.

A group of U.S. senators last week introduced the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act. The legislation, according to a news release, “would provide all Americans with more transparency, choice and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation and proximity data.”

The move comes a short time after Apple Inc. and Google said they were developing a “contact-tracing system” that would use wireless signals to track the spread of coronavirus.

News reports indicated that within months the tracking system would be built into billions of smartphones. 

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‘The Perfect Privacy Storm’

New Issues in Privacy Debate With Technology and Contact-Tracing

By Jeff Benson

Last of two parts.

Contract-tracing raises myriad privacy issues in the coronavirus fight. Today’s report discusses how technology further muddies the waters.

Contact-tracing can involve deep detective work.

People are reluctant to share information with strangers. They forget where they’ve been, or they mix up Tuesday with Wednesday.

All of which makes it difficult to pinpoint close contacts.

Incorporating modern technology, from Bluetooth-based location tracking to app integrations that pull data from patients’ calendars, could make contact-tracing faster but would introduce fresh privacy concerns.

Ironically, the fight around contact-tracing apps could focus attention on our expectations of medical privacy more generally.

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The Story of Your Health Data, as Told by COVID Contact-Tracing

By Jeff Benson

First of two parts.

You wake one Friday with a cough — a dry cough that’s gotten worse after a restless night in bed.

Your breaths come as short, jagged pulls — and you don’t know whether that’s because you’ve contracted coronavirus or you’re paranoid.

You find a clinic where you can get tested, and the nurse advises to assume you have it — to go home and to avoid other people.

That shouldn’t be too hard: You’ve been a recluse for the past month. Well, mostly.

Four days later, you’re at home coughing in rhythm to “Here Kitty Kitty” by Tiger King when the telephone rings. It’s the clinic letting you know you weren’t paranoid: You’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

You think that’s it — but a few hours later, the phone rings again. The clinic has shared your status with the local public-health department. You see, not all of your medical data is private — and especially not during a public-health crisis.

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