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Privacy & Data

CDT Joins Principles for Protecting Civil Rights and Privacy During the COVID-19 Crisis

As government leaders, policymakers, and technology companies continue to navigate the global coronavirus pandemic, CDT is actively monitoring the latest responses and working to ensure they are grounded in civil rights and liberties. Our policy teams aim to help leaders craft solutions that balance the unique needs of the moment, while still respecting and upholding individual human rights. Find more of our work at


The undersigned civil rights, civil liberties, civil society, and consumer protection organizations endorse the following principles to protect the civil rights and privacy of all persons, especially those populations who are at high risk for the virus and communities of color, when considering the deployment of technological measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Both the health and economic effects of COVID-19 disproportionately impact people from historically disadvantaged communities, including Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, as well as Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. People with disabilities have also faced devastating obstacles as a result of this virus. As a consequence of historical systemic discrimination and related policy choices, people of color today are more likely to be essential workers without paid sick leave, more likely to live in densely populated areas or living quarters, less likely to have health insurance or access to healthcare, and more likely to suffer from
inequities in the healthcare system, resulting in a disproportionate impact of the disease on these communities.

As employers, policymakers, businesses, and public health authorities consider strategies to reopen American society, they must not harm communities of color and people with disabilities already suffering disproportionately from the virus and economic hardships. They must avoid improperly deploying information technologies designed specifically to monitor, track, or trace individuals in order to mitigate, or respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis (hereinafter “COVID-19 response technologies”). Digital tools should be implemented only to augment, and not to replace traditional manual contact tracing. Moreover, neither manual tracing nor digital tools will be effective without widely available COVID-19 testing, supported isolation, partnerships with vulnerable communities, and other supportive public health measures, such as equitable access to healthcare.

No COVID-19 response technology has been proven trustworthy and effective for combating the pandemic in the United States. Use of such technology must only be allowed if it is non-discriminatory, effective, voluntary, secure, accountable, and used exclusively for public health purposes.

Read more from the open letter, as well as the full list of signatories, here.

These principles have been sent as a letter separately to both the House and the Senate.

Read the Principles