BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is weighing privacy issues as it determines whether it will put a digital contact tracing system into place in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement Tuesday, the ACLU of Massachusetts said the state is seeking bidders to help with digital contact tracers and has a deadline of December 1 for companies to submit bids. The ACLU praised Massachusetts’ approach.
“Unlike other states, Massachusetts did not leap to adopt tech-assisted COVID-19 contact tracing. Instead, the Baker administration is asking for evidence prior to adoption that a COVID-19 contact tracing app will be effective, equitable, privacy-preserving, and practical. The ACLU of Massachusetts commends this thoughtful, deliberate approach,” said executive director Carol Rose.
Baker was asked about contact tracing at his Tuesday press conference.
“There are two big issues with digital contact tracing systems. One is trust. You cannot underestimate how important the issue around trust is when it comes to contact tracing I think, in many respects, part of the reason you haven’t seen digital contact tracing adopted in a big way is the concern about basically targeting and tagging people based on the presence of their phone in certain locations,” said Baker. “That comes with some real downsides about how people feel about contact tracing generally.”
Baker said the second concern is privacy. The governor said he does not believe privacy concerns have been “adequately addressed by any of the platforms that we’ve talked to.”
Kade Crockford, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Technology for Liberty Program, said the state is taking the right approach by acting cautiously.
“Massachusetts leaders are right to center privacy, equity, efficacy, and security in their exploration of tech-assisted contact tracing,” said Crockford. “There’s a lot we don’t know about whether exposure notification technologies meaningfully contribute to manual contact tracing efforts, in a way that reduces the spread of this deadly virus. The Commonwealth’s approach here—to look carefully first—is prudent and commendable.”