Sen. Hawley: Google's Pichai, Apple's Cook Should Take Personal Liability for Contact Tracing Privacy

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is calling on Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to take personal liability for any potential privacy violations associated with their contact tracing project. 

The computer giants are trying to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by tracking population movements. 

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In a letter to Pichai and Cook dated Tuesday (April 21), Hawley, who has been one of Congress' biggest Big Tech critics, said he is concerned about data collected for tracing the spread of the virus being anonymous and whether they could be trusted to stop the program when the pandemic ended. He wants the CEO's to have some skin in the game, as it were. 

“If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal. Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over,” he wrote.  

One reason for his skepticism that the companies would protect privacy, he said, was Google's admission during a March Judiciary Committee hearing that it still tracks location data even after a user has "turned it off." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.