U.S. Senators ask Apple just how private the new COVID-19 screening app really is

Before the end of March, Apple launched a couple of different resources to help people stay informed about the global coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19, the disease it causes. And now some United States Senators want to know just how secure user privacy is when using one of these resources.

According to Bloomberg, four U.S. Senators have sent a letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, in an effort to learn more about the COVID-19 screening app Apple launched earlier this year. Those Senators are: Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), each of which is now expressing a concern “for the safety and security of Americans’ private health data” as they use Apple’s new COVID-19 screening app.

Senators Bob Menendez, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to the company on Friday expressing concern “for the safety and security of Americans’ private health data.” They want to know about data-sharing practices and safeguards, and whether the app complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The senators are also seeking information on Apple’s agreements with federal or state governments for the development of the app, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg.

The senators acknowledge that Apple says the software does not “require a sign-in or association with a user’s Apple ID, and users’ individual responses will not be sent to Apple or any government organization.”

When Apple launched the new app, the company said it “is not collecting your answers from the screening tool”, while also noting that it does collect some data on how the app is used — generally speaking. None of the information it does collect can be utilized to identify an individual, according to Apple.

With an app like this, it would make sense that some individuals, including U.S. Senators, would want to know for sure that it’s not collecting any private health data.

The new app and website are available now. In addition to these resources, Apple also recently launched a dedicated portal within the Apple News app focused entirely on the coronavirus pandemic.