Attorney General Schmidt reccomends legislature regarding contact tracing
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt recommends that a law be passed governing COVID-19 contact tracing.
The Attorney General says that this process needs more of a legal framework for the protection of personal information and civil liberties.
“While contact tracing is a familiar tool to the public health community, the anticipated scope of expansion of the practice during the COVID-19 pandemic is certain to present challenging legal issues not addressed by current Kansas law,” says Schmidt. “Already, concerns have been raised about whether and how cellphone location data may be used to track the movements of Kansans, and major global data companies have announced they are developing technologies specifically to enable automated contact tracing through individuals’ cellphones. At least one lawsuit has been filed and resolved when the local government involved agreed to change its low-tech data-collection practices. All of this is occurring without even a basic statutory archit3ecture to guide development and deployment of the practice and management of the sensitive personal information collected.”
Contact tracing is how public health officials identify people who may have passed the infection on to another person. This is considered to be a key to reopening state economies safely. The process is used to identify new outbreaks and is a widely well accepted practice in the public health community. However, the lack of legislature regarding Kansans’ privacy leaves many, including Schmidt, feeling uneasy.
“Much of this is unplowed legal ground, and I recognize that the relatively short time available during the special session will not allow development of a thoughtful, comprehensive contracting statute,” says Schmidt. “More thorough study in an interim committee or during the next regular legislative session no doubt will be advisable. But perhaps crating a simple, basic framework to guide development of the practice at least trough the remainder of this year is possible and advisable.”
Schmidt will work with other state leaders to draft a bill if there is more interest in acting on this subject during Gov. Kelly’s special session.
Schmidt wants the bill to address the following:
If participation is voluntary or mandatory.
If contact information will remain private and confidential.
If cellphone location data will be collected?
Who the authorized party to collect, possess and access the data would be.
What exactly the data collected will be used for.
How long the data is allowed to be kept by the government.
A copy of the letter AG Schmidt wrote to the Governor and legislative leaders can be found