Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has called on the CEOs of Google and Apple to accept personal legal liability for protecting user privacy as they move to implement “contact tracing” technology in smartphones to track the spread of the Chinese virus. As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, Google and Apple are teaming up to track carriers of the Chinese coronavirus and other individuals, a process known as “contact tracing,” using smartphone location data. The companies promise a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms,” meaning the technology will be embedded in Android and iOS smartphones. Now Sen. Hawley is calling on the companies to address privacy concerns by making their CEOs personally liable for any improper use of user data. “If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” wrote Hawley in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over. The public statements you make now can be enforced under federal and state consumer protection laws. Do not hide behind a corporate shield like so many privacy offenders have before. Stake your personal finances on the security of this project.” This comes after Google’s recent announcement that, allegedly due to pandemic-related disruption, it would delay the rollout of key features in its plan to eliminate third-party tracking technology (known as “cookies”) in its Chrome internet browser. The effort is part of a wider push by Google to reassure consumers about its commitment to their privacy. But as Breitbart News reported last month, eliminating third-party cookies does not mean Chrome browsers won’t be collecting user data. It just means that Google will have an even tighter monopoly over that data, supplementing the vast amounts of data it collects on its users’ behavior via services like Google Search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, and hardware like Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. The company also does not have a sterling reputation for responsibly accessing healthcare data. In 2019, the company gained access to the personal health data of 50 million Americans through an initiative the company branded “Project Nightingale.” According to reports at the time, doctors and patients were unaware of Google’s data-harvesting operation.
Major kudos to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is also the former Attorney General for the State of Missouri, for putting these CEOs on notice. This whole so-called “contact tracing” just stinks of big brother and allowing the government the ability to track your whereabouts without any restrictions.