Recently released documents from the Department of Homeland Security reveal that a coalition of tech companies are interested in the surveillance capabilities of contact tracing apps.
As political leaders across the United States begin to make use of contact tracing apps the public is promised that privacy is being considered. However, newly released documents reveal that a private task force made up of Big Tech companies has expressed interest in surveillance capabilities of such apps. Additionally, controversial Fusion Centers appear to be preparing to make use of the data gathered by contact tracing apps as well.
Contact tracing is a process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person, collecting information about their contacts, and then tracing the contacts of infected individuals. All persons who may have come into contact with an infected individual are tested for infection, treated for the infection, and their contacts traced as well.
During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been calls for digital contact tracing using cell phones to notify individuals when they may have come into contact with an infected person or visited a hot spot of infection. Digital contact tracing apps use Bluetooth to track encounters, a move which is supposed to anonymize actual location data. Other forms of contact tracing apps involve the use of location data gathered from cellular networks. Critics believe the apps will be used to expand government surveillance.
“The records show that a tech sector task force closely aligned with the White House sought to aggregate “non-clinical location data” for “disease surveillance,” including cell phone location data, Uber trip data, and Google search data,” EPIC wrote.
The so-called “COVID19 Tech Task Force” is a private task force including representatives from AWS, Camber, ESRI, Facebook, Google, Harvard School of Public Health, Microsoft, Mozilla, R4, SAP, and Salesforce. The reference to “non-clinical location data” comes in a section entitled,