TRENTON, NJ --  Legislation by Assemblyman Dan Benson that would safeguard and restrict use of data collected for contact tracing was passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday. The safeguards would protect data and penalize those who would seek to misuse it.

The bill, A-4170, stipulates that any public health entity or contracted third party collecting data for contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic can only use it for the purpose of contact tracing or for research. If not deleted within 90 days after receiving it, the data must be de-identified.

Data collected would include information such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, location, infection status and date of COVID-19 onset among other statistics authorized by Commissioner of Health.

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“Establishing that contact tracing data goes nowhere beyond where it needs to go is about transparency and trust,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “If we expect people to share their personal information, they need to know that the data will be protected and that their privacy is our number one priority too.”

Misuse or unlawful disclosure of individually identifiable or private health data by a third party, or retention of data beyond date of required de-identification or deletion, would result in liability for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 collected by the Department of Health.

This measure also requires the Commissioner of Health to adopt rules and regulations regarding how collected contact tracing data may be used.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come into contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19, notifying them of their risk and providing support services. It can be done manually with verbal interviews or by using digital data and smartphone technologies such as Bluetooth and GP

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