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Privacy Concerns Over Utah’s COVID-19 Tracing App Spur Proposal Of New Bill

Photo of the dome of the Utah capitol building
Cory Dinter
File: The dome of the Utah Capitol. State Senator Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, plans to sponsor a new bill aimed at protecting Utahns privacy if they use a COVID-19 contact tracing app.

State Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, is planning to sponsor a bill aimed at protecting the privacy of Utahns who use the state’s COVID-19 voluntary contact tracing app. 

The Healthy Together app prompts users to take a symptom assessment each day and connects them with a testing site if they have symptoms. It also tracks where users go, if they give the app permission to do so.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, public health workers can use the location data to help with contact tracing. 

State officials said location data is deleted and information about symptoms is anonymized after 30 days. 

Hemmert said he wants to make that policy law and require all data to be deleted when the state no longer needs it to fight COVID-19. 

“It is a balancing act,” Hemmert said. “You don’t want to break what they’re trying to do but at the same time … those organizations certainly shouldn't be continuing to use that information post-pandemic.” 

Hemmert and the libertarian group Libertas Institute said they support the app because it is voluntary.

“We support this initiative in large part because it is a voluntary application with strict privacy controls in place,” James Czerniawski, tech and innovation policy analyst at Libertas Institute, wrote in a blog post when the app was launched. 

“This model allows state officials to gain meaningful data in understanding where the virus may have spread, which can help shape their thinking for how to address future waves of COVID-19 as well as future pandemics,” Czerniawski said.

Hemmert said the bill could be heard in a special session this year or in next year’s general session. 

Roughly 48,000 people have downloaded the app as of May 22.

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