Senate Democrat presses White House on reported coronavirus surveillance system efforts

Greg Nash

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) pressed the White House on Wednesday on reports that it is in talks to create a national coronavirus surveillance system.

“The Trump administration has not given me or the American people any confidence that it is capable of creating or maintaining a massive health data network in a manner that doesn’t undermine our fundamental right to privacy,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.

Politico reported Tuesday night that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has reached out to several health technology companies about creating a system to give the government real-time data on where patients are seeking treatment and for what, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

The national system would be used to determine what regions should relax or tighten social distancing guidelines. 

It would also represent an unprecedented government intervention into the handling of patient health data.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill on the reported surveillance system or Markey’s statement.

“As a nation, we are facing an historic public health emergency that is devastating individuals, families, and communities across this country,” Markey said Wednesday.

“In moments of crisis like this, we should not simply accept the declarations by some in power who will tell us that we have to stray from the guiding principles and civil liberties that make us who we are,” he added.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), meanwhile, released a statement Wednesday urging the administration to adopt privacy principles like data anonymization, use limitations and a promise to delete any such system after the pandemic is over.

“It is critical that we keep personal privacy top of mind as data is collected, and I am concerned that the Trump administration has not highlighted privacy as it considers collecting personal health data in response to COVID-19,” DelBene wrote.

“Public health safety and personal data privacy are not mutually exclusive. We must find a way to manage both during this crisis.”

—Updated at 2:35 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Ed Markey Jared Kushner Politico Suzan DelBene

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