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Cybersecurity & Standards, Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

CDT Statement and Announcement of Coronavirus: Data for Life and Liberty Task Force Formation

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

Today CDT is releasing a statement regarding the use of data, such as location information and Bluetooth proximity information, to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The statement focuses primarily on government conduct, with an eye toward ensuring that data uses are consistent with privacy and civil liberties.

As indicated in the statement, any inquiry about whether personal information should be used must start with an assessment of efficacy of that data for the intended use, informed by health professionals: is the data going to be useful in stopping the spread of COVID-19? We also urge that governments strongly favor voluntary approaches that require specific, explicit, and informed user consent; that they are transparent about the data on which they rely; that they analyze the data in order to avoid discriminatory effects; and that data-driven measures be time-bound, and automatically cease after a set period of time unless health concerns require an extension. We also urge that consequences of data use be calibrated: data that might adequately indicate that a person should ask to be tested for COVID-19 may not be sufficient to warrant a deprivation of their liberty by means of a severe, mandatory quarantine order. Finally, we recognize that health professionals can draw useful inferences from aggregated data, which, if aggregated properly, may have little impact on privacy.

We don’t purport to have all the answers to issues surrounding government surveillance in the context of this pandemic. This statement is the result of a series of consultations we had with members of CDT’s Coronavirus: Data for Life and Liberty Task Force. It consists of individuals from companies and civil society organizations, lawyers, academics, health professionals, and technologists who have come together to explore whether, and if so how, data can be used to fight the pandemic, while preserving civil liberties. The statement we release today reflects the views of CDT informed by these consultations, and the positions taken should not be attributed to any of the individuals in the Task Force, or the entities with which they are associated, except, of course, CDT. We are grateful for the ongoing advice and counsel of the Task Force.

NameOrganization or Entity*
Jeff BrueggemanAT&T
Andrew Crawford, Mallory Knodel & Greg NojeimCenter for Democracy & Technology
Andrew Crocker & Adam SchwartzElectronic Frontier Foundation
Dr. Terry CullenRegenstrief Institute
James X. DempseyBerkeley Center for Law & Technology
Al GidariStanford Center for Internet & Society
Robyn GreeneFacebook
Susan Landau Tufts University
David LieberGoogle
Candace Martin and Jeff RatnerApple
Ashkan SoltaniIndependent
Uttara SivaramUber
Yael Weinman and David YoungVerizon
Daniel WeitznerMIT
Marc ZwillingerZwillGen

*Organizations and entities with which Task Force members are associated are listed for purposes of identification only.

We plan to continue to consult with the Task Force about surveillance issues related to efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.