Senators Question Apple CEO on Privacy of COVID-19 Screening app

In an April 3 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Democratic senators are questioning the data privacy of the company’s COVID-19 coronavirus screening website despite Apple’s promises not to collect identifying health information.

The app and its accompanying website, released late March, were the result of an Apple partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Individuals can complete a survey on their personal health and social exposure to determine whether to seek medical care for COVID-19 symptoms.

The four senators – Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. – want answers on what Apple is doing to protect user health data. While Apple says that it will not collect personal user information or require users to sign on with an Apple ID, the company will collect information to improve the site. Apple did not disclose, according to the letter, what that information will be.

“All data collected via Apple’s screening tools should remain confidential and must not be used for any commercial purposes in the future,” the senators assert. “Moreover, Apple should clearly state if the collected information is in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”

The senators also aim to understand Apple’s efforts to keep any collected data secure from potential hackers and malicious actors. They are requesting a response from Cook by April 10.

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.

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