Levine Legislation to Protect Privacy, Prohibit Law Enforcement Use of COVID-19 Data Approved by Key Senate Committee

Thursday, August 13, 2020

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Legislation by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) to protect the personal data of COVID-19 positive or exposed individuals in California has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 7 to 2 vote on AB 660 (Levine) would limit the use of data collected through a state or local COVID-19 contact tracing program only to conduct contact tracing activities. The bill would also prohibit state or local law enforcement agencies from collecting, storing or using COVID-19 contact tracing data for any law enforcement or federal immigration enforcement purpose.

 

One of the most effective tools to limit the spread of COVID-19 is the use of contact tracing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact tracing involves identifying people who have COVID-19, people who they came in contact with and working with them to interrupt disease spread. This includes asking people with COVID-19 to isolate and for their contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily. Contact tracing captures and shares a significant amount of personal information including names and physical locations.

 

As state and local agencies begin to deploy contact tracing programs, appropriate steps must be taken to protect personal information from inappropriate private or governmental use. Limiting the spread of COVID-19 will require adherence to CDC guidelines and large-scale participation in contact tracing, which has been used successfully around the world. With COVID-19 infections proportionally higher in minority and immigrant communities, California cannot allow the fear of contact tracing data being used for law enforcement or federal immigration purposes to limit contact tracing participation, which will save lives.

 

To date, over 593,000 Californians have tested positive and over 10,000 Californians have died from COVID-19. Nationally, over 167,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

 

“Successful implementation of contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19 will require trust and public confidence in the actions taken by federal, state and local governments,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine. “ California is fortunate to have over 11 million immigrants including an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants call the Golden State home. These individuals have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, yet are less likely to seek medical aid or participate in a contact tracing program conducted by law enforcement because of their immigration status. AB 660 provides important protections for Californians’ personal data, will build trust and increase public confidence in state or local contact tracing necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

 

AB 660 will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee before being voted on by the full State Senate later this month. The Legislature will adjourn the 2019-2020 legislative session on August 31, 2020.

 

A video of Assemblymember Levine’s AB 660 opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee can be found here: https://youtu.be/79Qp_GjTUHc