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COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern

COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern
Posted at 1:20 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 07:57:55-04

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked concerns about how private medical information is being used.

An Associated Press review shows that health officials in at least 35 U.S. states are sharing the addresses of those who test positive for coronavirus to first responders who request it.

Ten of those states also share names with one another: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee. Wisconsin did so briefly but stopped earlier this month, the AP found.

Law enforcement isn’t handed a physical list of COVID-19 patients. Instead, the AP says information about those infected is flagged in a computer system and relayed from dispatchers to officers in the field.

Officials say first responders use the information to take extra precautions that help them avoid contracting and spreading the disease and authorities are required to agree not to use the data to refuse a call for service.

However, civil liberty and community activists have expressed concerns of potential profiling in African American and Hispanic communities that already have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement.

The president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Thomas Saenz, told the AP that authorities should explain why they’re collecting names and addresses, and assure minority communities that the information won’t be turned over to the feds.

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Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.