Senator Jackson Urges Governor to Safeguard Californians' Privacy Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

April 29, 2020

SACRAMENTO –As California takes action to combat the coronavirus, in some cases through unprecedented partnerships between government and technology companies and with new and untested technologies, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), chair of the California State Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Governor Newsom to do so without undermining Californians’ fundamental right to privacy.

In a letter, Senator Jackson called on the Governor to consider the protection of sensitive personal information while pursuing public private partnerships, when assessing contracts to expand testing, conduct contact tracing through apps, facilitate distance learning for K-12 students, connect individuals with job opportunities, and other initiatives.

“In times of crisis, we must be especially vigilant to safeguard our fundamental rights and ensure that we do not sacrifice them in the name of safety. We must proceed with the least possible disruption and undermining of our privacy rights and look to the least intrusive approaches to our success in battling this epidemic—and those that are likely to follow,” said Senator Jackson. 

Jackson asked the Governor to consider seven components of individuals’ privacy when pursuing technological initiatives to help combat COVID-19.

  • Transparency: What data is being collected? Who is collecting and controlling this information? How will the public be notified?
  • Data Minimization: What protections are being put in place to ensure that only data that is necessary for serving specific public health interests is being collected?
  • Consent: Will Californians have the ability to control whether their data is collected (will this be an opt-in process)? Will there be penalties for not sharing personal information, such as being barred from returning to work or school?
  • Anonymization: Will any of the information be personally identifying? If not, how can we be sure it is not?
  • Use and Sharing Limitations: What are the restrictions on the uses for this information? Who can the information be shared with? Is there going to be an adequate firewall so that the information collected cannot also be used for law enforcement, advertising, or other business purposes?
  • Data Retention Limits: Are there retention limits on the data or clear guidelines for when the data will be deleted?
  • Secure Maintenance and Transmission: What protocols are being put into place so that personal information is protected against breaches and other unauthorized disclosures?

The full text of the letter is available here.

Senator Jackson is Chair of the California State Senate Judiciary Committee and a longtime advocate for strong privacy protections. She represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.