How Will the CDC Use its $500 Million Surveillance System? | Citizens Against Government Waste

How Will the CDC Use its $500 Million Surveillance System?

The WasteWatcher

Part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARE) or stimulus package, which was passed late last night by the Senate and is soon to be considered by the House, will be spent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The agency received $500 million to modernize its surveillance, data collection, and analytics infrastructure system to track the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.

The CDC already has a lot of information on its website, from symptoms you may experience from the virus, how to clean and disinfect your home, to caring for the sick at home, and the number of COVID-19 cases in the individual states.  The site even has a section on how to keep your pets healthy and what to do if you should become sick.

According to the Business Insider, it is not yet clear what the spanking-new surveillance system will do but there is interest in aggregating data taken from many tech platforms and smartphones to monitor the spread.

Business Insider  reports that other countries have adopted various surveillance systems that would raise serious privacy issues in this country. For example, China mandated a smart phone app that ask questions of the user about their level of exposure to others with virus symptoms and will tell the user to self-quarantine.  Singapore has a similar app that uses high-tech surveillance and Bluetooth to track the virus and detects how close the user of the app gets to another person that has been exposed to the virus, ordering them to get tested if they are too close.

Apps like would these raise serious privacy issues in the U.S.  The question is how the CDC plans to gather and use the data with its $500 million system.  Whatever they do, it will have to comply with privacy laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.  This law prevents the sharing of private health information among hospitals, government, and third parties without the patient’s knowledge or permission.

The CDC must report on the status of this new surveillance system within the next thirty days.  Congress and all of us need to keep an eye on exactly how this money is being spent and what is being developed.