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Privacy & Data

CDT’s Written Testimony in Senate Paper Hearing on Privacy & Big Data in Coronavirus Response

Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus
Before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Statement of Michelle Richardson, Director, Privacy and Data Project
Center for Democracy and Technology

On behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), thank you for the opportunity to testify about enlisting big data in the fight against coronavirus.

We commend the committee for holding this paper hearing while usual congressional functions are suspended. Both governmental and corporate responses to the coronavirus are evolving quickly, and Congressional oversight will hopefully encourage best practices while deterring behavior that is unjustifiably risky. It is never too soon to ask whether data use violates privacy, treats people unfairly, or fails to solve the problem for which it was obtained.

Academics, public health officials, and advocacy organizations have already registered their concerns with coronavirus response efforts violating privacy or other human rights. These concerns are only heightened when a government agency is the collector or recipient of the data, the data is individualized, or the data collection or use is mandatory. It’s important to note that these entities and individuals do not categorically oppose all corporate or government collection or use of data in response to the coronavirus. They instead seek to ensure it is conducted in a way that does not risk privacy or human rights.

Michelle Richardson’s answers to the Senate Commerce Committee’s questions in this hearing.