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Attorney General Nessel Asks Apple, Google to Ensure All Contact Tracing Apps Serve a Public Health Purpose

LANSING – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Dana Nessel and a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general asked Google and Apple to ensure all contact tracing and exposure notification apps related to COVID-19 adequately protect consumers’ personal information.  

Specifically, the coalition asked Google and Apple to guarantee that such apps, when available to consumers, are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and the Apple App Store once no longer needed by public health authorities. 

In a letter sent Tuesday to the chief executive officers of Apple and Google, the attorneys general acknowledge that while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy. 

"Technology can provide valuable resources like digital contact tracing and enhance our understanding of this deadly virus, but that tool must be wielded appropriately so it does not infringe upon the privacy of our residents,” Nessel said. “Google and Apple must minimize these risks to consumers’ personal information, including sensitive health information.” 

The coalition expressed concern regarding contact tracing and exposure notification apps available to consumers in Google Play and the App Store, particularly the “free” apps that use GPS tracking, offer in-app purchases, and are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution. 

To protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts to monitor and address the spread of COVID-19, the letters ask Google and Apple to: 

  1. Verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities;
  2. Remove any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above; and
  3. Pledge to remove all COVID-19/coronavirus-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends. In addition, the attorneys general asked Google and Apple to provide written confirmation to their offices once the apps have been removed or an explanation why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.

In signing these letters, Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general from Oregon, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.  

A copy of the letter is available here