Digital Contact Tracing and Data Protection Law

Digital Contact Tracing and Data Protection Law.  Congressional Research Service.  Jonathan M. Gaffney, Eric N. Holmes, Chris D. Linebaugh. September 24, 2020

Digital Contact Tracing and Data Protection Law Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has infected millions of Americans since the ongoing pandemic began, and the disease has caused many thousands of deaths across the country. Government officials attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19 have implemented a number of responses, including widespread stay-at-home orders, travel advisories, and an increase in testing. State and local public health authorities are also making use of public health investigation techniques to ascertain how the disease has spread. One such technique is contact tracing, a process by which public health investigators identify individuals who have come into contact with infected persons. 

Officials and technology companies have suggested that contact tracing may be accomplished more quickly and easily with the assistance of digital tools. For example, digital technology might assist with tracking individual movements and encounters using information collected from mobile devices. However, public health authorities’ use of digital tools capable of collecting individual information also raises concerns about how to preserve the privacy and security of that data.

This report will discuss how data privacy and security (together, data protection) law applies to a public health authority’s use of digital contact tracing tools. The report begins with a discussion of contact tracing, the role of technology in assisting with contact tracing, and potential privacy concerns. The second section of the report details key federal privacy laws—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Communications Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the Privacy Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act—and discusses what rights and obligations these laws may create for users and providers of digital contact tracing tools. Next, the report reviews selected state and foreign data protection laws and their application to digital contact tracing. The report concludes by providing an overview of data protection bills introduced in the 116th Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and discussing some considerations for Congress as it weighs such legislation.

[PDF format, 47 pages].

How Americans See Digital Privacy Issues Amid The COVID-19 Outbreak

How Americans See Digital Privacy Issues Amid The COVID-19 Outbreak. Pew Research Center. Brooke Auxier. May 4, 2020.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has brought privacy and surveillance concerns to the forefront – from hacked video conferencing sessions to proposed government tracking of people’s cellphones as a measure to limit and prevent the spread of the virus. Over the past year, Pew Research Center has surveyed Americans on their views related to privacy, personal data and digital surveillance. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy. Congressional Research Service.  Rachel F. Fefer, Wayne M. Morrison, Shayerah Ilias Akhtar. May 21, 2019

As the global internet develops and evolves, digital trade has become more prominent on the global trade and economic policy agenda. The economic impact of the internet was estimated to be $4.2 trillion in 2016, making it the equivalent of the fifth-largest national economy. The digital economy accounted for 6.9% of current‐dollar gross U.S. domestic product (GDP) in 2017. Digital trade has been growing faster than traditional trade in goods and services.  Congress has an important role to play in shaping global digital trade policy, from oversight of agencies charged with regulating cross-border data flows to shaping and considering legislation implementing new trade rules and disciplines through trade negotiations. Congress also works with the executive branch to identify the right balance between digital trade and other policy objectives, including privacy and national security.

[PDF format, 45 pages].

Today’s Washington Press Corps More Digital, Specialized

Today’s Washington Press Corps More Digital, Specialized. Pew Research Center. December 3, 2015.

The story of who is covering federal government is a striking illustration of the shifting power dynamics within American journalism at large. Reporters for niche outlets, some of which offer highly specialized information services at premium subscription rates, now fill more seats in the U.S. Senate Press Gallery than do daily newspaper reporters. As recently as the late 1990s, daily newspaper staff outnumbered such journalists by more than two-to-one. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 47 pages, 952.3 KB].

Expanding Participation and Boosting Growth: The Infrastructure Needs of the Digital Economy

Expanding Participation and Boosting Growth: The Infrastructure Needs of the Digital Economy. World Economic Forum. March 20, 2015.

What hurdles do both developing and developed economies face when trying to build a strong digital infrastructure? What technological, financial and political impediments could delay the investment needed to maintain, improve and increase access to digital networks? The report explores all these questions. Drawing on the input of a wide range of industry experts, it proposes policies and other recommendations to overcome these challenges. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 20 pages, 6.85 MB].

The Opportunities of Digitizing Payments

The Opportunities of Digitizing Payments. World Bank Development Research Group. August 28, 2104.

According to the report, digitizing payments and remittances is vital to achieving G20 goals. The G20’s focus on financial inclusion directly contributes to its core goal of achieving strong, sustainable, and balanced growth. Studies show that broader access to and participation in the financial system can reduce income inequality, boost job creation, accelerate consumption, increase investments in human capital, and directly help poor people manage risk and absorb financial shocks. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 20 pages, 1.43 MB].

Delivering Digital Infrastructure: Advancing the Internet Economy

Delivering Digital Infrastructure: Advancing the Internet Economy. World Economic Forum. April 28, 2014.

The report examines the current threats to digital infrastructure and suggests approaches and actions for addressing them before they affect the flow of information and services that serve the digital economy. Each chapter addresses a technological, commercial, policy or regional challenge that is of particular significance. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 52 pages, 6.18 MB].

Older Adults and Technology Use

Older Adults and Technology Use. Pew Research Internet Project. Aaron Smith. April 3, 2014.

America’s seniors have historically been late adopters to the world of technology compared to their younger compatriots, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to the report. Two different groups of older Americans are observed. The first group, which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors, has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other, which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability, is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 27 pages, 512.94 KB].

Envisioning a Digital Age Architecture for Early Education

Envisioning a Digital Age Architecture for Early Education. New America Foundation. Lisa Guernsy. March 26, 2014.

The young children of today will soon grow into the middle-schoolers of the next decade, the high school graduates of the late 2020s, and the citizens and workforce of the future. By paying attention to the way today’s young children use technologies and media, and by tailoring policies to ensure that educators are prepared to help them, policymakers can promote environments that give learners every chance to succeed, says the author. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 14 pages, 4.05 MB].

Connected Learning: Harnessing the Information Age to Make Learning More Powerful

Connected Learning: Harnessing the Information Age to Make Learning More Powerful. Alliance for Excellent Education. Martens Roc. March 18, 2014.

The report introduces connected learning, a promising educational approach that uses digital media to engage students’ interests and instill deeper learning skills, such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. The report lists four elements constituting connected learning’s emphasis on bridging school, popular culture, home, and the community to create an environment in which students engage in and take responsibility for their learning. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 12 pages, 543.49 KB].