Heritage Influences Google and Apple Digital Contact Tracing Rules


Heritage Influences Google and Apple Digital Contact Tracing Rules

May 18th, 2020

The Heritage Foundation made major progress in the defense of individual liberties when tech giants Google and Apple included several Heritage policy recommendations in their rules for digital contact tracing apps.

The companies have been working jointly toward developing a method of digital contact tracing to identify individuals who have likely come into significant contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients. While such methods have greatly aided South Korea in stemming the rate of infection in their country, there were legitimate concerns that such technology could be used here to surveil American citizens.

Klon Kitchen, director of The Heritage Foundation's newly launched Center for Technology Policy, published a report in April in response to these concerns, detailing the potential uses and abuses of digital contact tracing. The report included eight standards and commitments that industry and government should adopt in order to maximize efficacy of the digital contact tracing effort, while protecting privacy.

Less than a week later, Google and Apple updated their rules for developers to include several of the most important standards listed in the Heritage report, including

  • Apps can only use the Google/Apple API for COVID-19 response and cannot be used for law enforcement or intelligence purposes.
  • Apps may only collect the minimum data needed for contact tracing and notification.
  • No collected data may be used for commercial efforts (selling, ads, licensing, or providing to local, state, or federal government).
  • Apps will not have advertisements, product promotions, or other marketing.
  • The app cannot request or use location data, special access, privileged or signature permissions, or collect any device information to track the precise location of a user.

This is welcome and encouraging news, according to Kitchen.

“Technology will play a critical role in getting the country up and running again,” Kitchen said. “But, as we leverage these tools we must always protect the fundamentals of our shared experiment in liberty.”