Apple responds to senators' privacy concerns about coronavirus app

Apple has responded to a letter in which Democratic senators questioned Apple CEO, Tim Cook, about the privacy of its coronavirus screening tools.

The letter answers several questions originally posed by senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The company addressed the senators’ concerns in its response while also answering questions related to data sharing, agreements with government agencies and the accessibility of its screening tools.

The letter states Apple “drew upon its engineering and clinical resources to help develop a new COVID-19 website and COVID-19 app” at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It also outlined the many privacy protections included in its agreement with the agency, noting it’s using network security and encryption technologies to protect the data collected.

Regardless, the company claims that it will not be collecting any personal data from those using the tools.

“Apple does not currently collect any information entered into the website and app by individuals. We apply the principle of data minimization to all of its consumer products and services, and our COVID-19 resources are no exception,” senior director of government affairs Timothy Powderly stated in the letter.

Apple will also only retain collected information as long as necessary to support the operation of its coronavirus screening tools. Once that information is no longer needed, Apple will delete it and make it permanently unrecoverable in accordance with industry standards.

The letter continued by addressing the overall accessibility of the company’s coronavirus screening tools. Apple shared its screening tools employ features such as VoiceOver technology so individuals can navigate the screening tools by listening. Meanwhile, Switch Control and Voice Control features take aim at improving usage among those with physical limitations.

Apple’s screening tools aren’t the only tech tools facing privacy issues in the wake of coronavirus. Senators have also called on the FTC to begin regulating teleconference software, recognizing tech companies should implement safeguards against unauthorized access to meetings and setting limits on data collection and recording.