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Greetings from York, Maine!

It’s May Day, an ancient festival of Spring holiday typically celebrated with dancing and music. Unfortunately, there won’t be any May Day celebrations in public spaces this year due to COVID-19, but we are starting to see a gradual reopening of states throughout the country. Here in Maine, we have begun the first of a four-phase plan that will, hopefully, allow the state to reopen completely in the coming months.

The stay at home order has been extended to May 31, with remote working in place until June, if all goes well. This is a hopeful sign that the end of quarantine may be in sight. I think we’re ready to see what the next “new normal” looks like.

As states reopen, there have been calls for testing to ensure it’s safe for the public to return to work and school. While there is a shortage of readily available medical testing, big tech has been working on contact tracing apps to track an infected patient’s location, and in some cases, notify individuals who may have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. These apps are already in widespread use in China, South Korea and a handful of EU countries.

There has been a lot of chatter over the last couple of weeks about Google and Apple working together to develop an exposure notification API. They released the first seed to contact tracing app developers for feedback April 28. The tech would allow smartphones to communicate with each other via Bluetooth if consumers opt-in to downloading and using the app. Both companies say “the tech is designed to be privacy-preserving” in that contact IDs would be randomized and not tied to a user’s identifying data.

While the app is opt-in only, it may be a tough sell as a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland survey found 3 out of 5 Americans would be either “unable or unwilling” to download the app. Google and Apple are expected to provide more details about how the app works and the release date on Friday, but as of press time, the information was not yet available.

We expected federal privacy law might be on the back burner while we’re in the midst of the pandemic, but Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., announced plans yesterday to introduce the “COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act,” which contains protections for personal information as well as a preemption clause. The bill’s cosponsors include Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. IAPP Senior Westin Research Fellow Müge Fazlioglu breaks down the bill in a piece for Privacy Tracker.

And finally, in case you missed it, we released the IAPP “Privacy Enforcement Casebook” in print this week. The updated reference contains noteworthy privacy cases from around the world and offers insights into regulators’ priorities and expectations.

Have a good weekend and stay safe.


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