Privacy fears threaten New York City’s coronavirus tracing efforts
NEW YORK — Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will be asked to disclose personal information this month as part of the city’s herculean Covid-19 tracing effort — but suspicions over how the government will use that information are threatening the city’s best chance to crawl out of its coronavirus lockdown.
Contact tracing requires handing over intimate personal data — including home addresses, names of friends and relations — to strangers, many of whom were only recently trained and hired to collect the information. The city expects to have 3,700 contact tracers mobilized this month, and as many as 10,000 when the effort reaches its capacity.
But in this majority-minority city, government distrust was already exacerbated due to the Trump administration’s hard-line stance against immigrants. After a week of chaotic protests against the police following the killing of George Floyd, suspicion between residents and government authorities has only grown, community leaders say. And elected officials, advocates and privacy experts argue the de Blasio administration’s unwillingness to specify how privacy will be protected will limit the tracing effort’s reach and potentially prolong the need for strict lockdown measures the city has had in place since March.