Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He signed a law that bars law enforcement from accessing information from contact tracing.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr (CC-BY)

New York to bar police from using coronavirus contact tracing data

Cuomo had been urged to sign the bill by tech advocacy and civil liberties groups.

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Dec 24, 2020   Updated Dec 24, 2020, 11:11 am CST

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill into law that bars police or law enforcement from accessing information gathered via contact tracing, advocacy groups said.

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The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) announced that Cuomo had signed the bill on Thursday.

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The measure, S8450C and A10500 in the New York State legislature, would require all information required through contact tracing for the coronavirus pandemic to be kept confidential. It also prohibits law enforcement or immigration authorities from accessing information gathered as part of contact tracing.

The NYCLU said that it was a “huge step towards building trust in our public health authorities and fighting the spread of COVID-19.”

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Daily Dot. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

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Cuomo had faced pressure to sign the bill, which passed through the legislature over the summer, as it had the backing of a number of tech advocacy and civil liberties groups.

Besides the NYCLU, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and other groups had pushed for the governor to sign the bill into law.

“Assuring that the sensitive information collected will only be used to protect public health is critical to striking that balance and encouraging candid cooperation from affected New Yorkers,” the EFF said in a blog post earlier this month that urged Cuomo to sign the bill.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, STOP Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn said the law appeared to be the first of its kind in the United States.

“No one should have to choose between protecting their community from COVID-19 and protecting them from the police and ICE,” Cahn said in a statement on Thursday. “These privacy protections will ensure that all New Yorkers feel safe cooperating with contact tracers to battle this second wave. It shouldn’t have taken so many months of pressure to force Governor Cuomo to do the right thing and sign this bill into law. Still, we are grateful to the governor for recognizing that we can’t protect New Yorkers from COVID-19 unless we also protect the privacy of their contact tracing data.”

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This is the second privacy-related measure Cuomo has signed this week.

On Tuesday, Cuomo signed a law that would put a two-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance in public and private schools in the state.

That legislation would ban the use of the technology in schools until July 2022 or until a study about its use by state officials is completed.

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*First Published: Dec 24, 2020, 10:58 am CST