Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Joins Bill to Protect Americans’ Civil Liberties and Privacy During the Coronavirus Pandemic
News Release from Office of Rep Tulsi Gabbard, September 18, 2020
Washington, DC—Yesterday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) cosponsored H.R.6866, the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act which would set strong and enforceable privacy and data security regulations to protect Americans’ civil liberties as the world responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Widespread testing and robust contact tracing are the cornerstone of our public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are crucial to keep infection numbers down and defeat the virus,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “However, using technology to help us defeat the virus should not violate our civil liberties. This legislation sets clear rules for technology used in our public health response and requires regular scrutiny to ensure it remains safe and that civil liberties are upheld. Urgent passage of this legislation is necessary to ensure our public health response upholds our commitment to privacy and civil liberties.”
The bill is endorsed by the Privacy and Technology Division for Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Knowledge, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Consumer Reports, Free Press, Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC), Public Citizen, health privacy scholar Frank Pasquale, and privacy scholar Ryan Calo.
Background: H.R.6866, the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act would:
- Ensure that data collected for public health is strictly limited for use in public health;
- Explicitly prohibit the use of health data for discriminatory, unrelated, or intrusive purposes, including commercial advertising, e-commerce, or efforts to gain access to employment, finance, insurance, housing, or education opportunities;
- Prevent the potential misuse of health data by government agencies with no role in public health;
- Require meaningful data security and data integrity protections – including data minimization and accuracy – and mandate deletion by tech firms after the public health emergency;
- Protect voting rights by prohibiting conditioning the right to vote based on a medical condition or use of contact tracing apps;
- Require regular reports on the impact of digital collection tools on civil rights;
- Give the public control over their participation in these efforts by mandating meaningful transparency and requiring opt-in consent; and
- Provide for robust private and public enforcement, with rulemaking from an expert agency while recognizing the continuing role of states in legislation and enforcement.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has consistently called for a focus on a robust testing and contact tracing strategy to combat this public health crisis. She has repeatedly demanded answers and transparency from Governor David Ige about how federal funds designated for contact tracing and testing have been used in Hawai‘i.
She has also been a leading voice in Congress advocating for privacy protections. She has actively sought reforms to Section 702, the Patriot Act, introduced legislation to strengthen and expand the functions of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and is a founding member of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus focused on protecting the privacy and security of Americans in the digital age.
Her work has earned her an A+ rating from civil liberties advocacy groups Restore the Fourth and Fight for the Future.