Civil Liberties Groups, Activists Express Concern Over COVID-19 Data Being Shared With Law Enforcement

Illustration for article titled Civil Liberties Groups, Activists Express Concern Over COVID-19 Data Being Shared With Law Enforcement
Photo: Shutterstock

There is a lot to worry about given the entire state of, well, everything. Your personal information being given to the cops shouldn’t be one of them. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in many states across the country.


According to ABC News, there have been growing concerns about people’s personal data being shared with first responders after receiving a coronavirus test. Over 11 million people have been tested across the country so far. Officials in nearly two-thirds of states have been sharing the addresses of people who tested positive with first responders with 10 of them even sharing the patient’s names.

From ABC News:

First responders argue the information is vital to helping them take extra precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus.

But civil liberty and community activists have expressed concerns of potential profiling in African-American and Hispanic communities that already have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement. Some envision the data being forwarded to immigration officials.

“The information could actually have a chilling effect that keeps those already distrustful of the government from taking the COVID-19 test and possibly accelerate the spread of the disease,” the Tennessee Black Caucus said in a statement.


In Tennessee, the issue has sparked the ire of both Democrats and Republicans who weren’t aware of the data sharing until this month. If a person’s COVID-19 test comes back positive, the information is then forwarded to dispatch centers by state and local officials. The state then deletes the data within a month or whenever the health department stops monitoring the patient. Still, there are those in the state who have their concerns about the transparency of the process.

“Tell us how it’s working for you, then tell us how well it’s been working. Don’t just tell us you need it for your job,” state Rep. G.A. Hardway, a Memphis Democrat who chairs the legislative black caucus, told ABC News.

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said “We should question why the information needs to be provided to law enforcement, whether there is that danger of misuse.” He said that if law enforcement is going to accept this information then they should at least provide a guarantee that it won’t be turned over to the federal government.

The National Fraternal Order of Police say that this information is essential for keeping its officers safe and preventing the spread and transmission of COVID-19. Critics don’t understand why first responders simply don’t take precautions with everyone they encounter. Given that asymptomatic transmission is one way the virus spreads, only taking protective steps for those confirmed with the virus seems to be an ineffective way to prevent contracting COVID-19.


In Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union is troubled by the wording of an order released by state Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. The order requires the names and addresses of those who test positive for the virus to be given to first responders, yet it also tells first responders to presume anyone they come in contact with has the virus. “If that is a best or recommended practice, then why the need or desire to share this specific information with first responders?” Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the ACLU’s Ohio chapter, told ABC News.

There have already been concerns about the misuse of the data. In New Hampshire, some first responders had been sharing the information of people who tested positive with local leaders. There was no information on who the data was shared with or even why. Jake Leon, a spokesman for the state’s health department, has only said that the incident was a misunderstanding and has since been stopped.

Jr Staff Writer @TheRoot. Watcher of wrestling, player of video games. Mr. Steal Your Disney+ Password.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


The only people who need that information (besides treating doctors) is the contact tracers so they can do their job and find people who were exposed to that infected person and have them tested - and that is a temporary need that expires when the contacts have been traced for that person... a matter of weeks at most before the personal identifying information should be deleted. Clearly, first responders should be treating everyone they interact with as (at the very least) an asymptomatic infected person. Providing them a list of infected people’s id’s encourages them not to use best practices when dealing with someone who is not on that list.