A New Normal – What Contact Tracing COVID-19 Means for Privacy

Back in January, if a tech giant asked consumers if they wanted to share their location data and health status with strangers, or an employer asked workers to take daily temperatures, many folks probably would’ve told them to shove off. But as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passes 80,000, more Americans might prioritize public health and put aside a distrust of Big Tech and everyday privacy intrusions.

Heather Federman, the vice president of privacy and policy for BigID, which uses machine learning to help companies protect their customer and employee data, says it’s unclear how long these pandemic-era privacy incursions will remain in place.

“I’ve stopped using the words ‘going back to normal,’ because I don’t think we’re going back to whatever it was before,” she said.

Federman, a lawyer by training who began her career at the Future of Privacy Forum as a legal and privacy fellow, and led privacy teams at Macy’s and American Express, shared her thoughts on the legal and privacy implications of contact-tracing apps and other data-centric initiatives used to flatten the curve.