Restaurant ‘Contact Tracing’ Will Test Limits of Laws, Say Experts
Weeks ago, before Washington state came close to entering Phase 2 of the "Safe Start" program, legal and medical experts were debating the legality of warrantless contact tracing.
Contact tracing is where a sick person informs medical authorities who've they've been around during contagious periods so officials can determine who else might catch the virus or illness. It's been done for years, especially with serious virus issues, but only on limited scales. In almost all cases worldwide, contact tracing was only done after specific 'hot spots' of an illness were pinpointed, then it was used to determine whom else might have been exposed. This is different.
Washington state's Phase 2 would require all patrons of restaurants that offer table service to leave their email and phone with the restaurant for contact tracing purposes, in case COVID is found there. According to the Washington Hospitality Association, one of the 13 requirements reads as follows:
"If the establishment offers table service, create a daily log of all customers and maintain that daily log for 30 days, including telephone/email contact information, and time in. This will facilitate any contact tracing that might need to occur."
According to MyNorthwest.com, this was done in South Korea, concerning several night clubs where a list of about 11,000 people who attended was assembled and then texted and asked to be tested for COVID-19. However, these people visited a known area where COVID was found.
The big difference here is the 'random' demand for citizens personal information. This doesn't just apply to venues where COVID was known to be, it's ALL table service restaurants and bars, regardless of known threat or not.
The HIPAA act of 1996 is well known to anyone who goes and sees a doctor. It's full name is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it was passed to safeguard citizens private information from unwanted, and often dangerous fraudulent marketing and tactics. It was also designed to protect patient medical and personal privacy.
According to the website Government Technology (govtech.com) this trace and test or contact tracing effort is going to "test" the limits of privacy laws, most namely, HIPAA. govtech.com is a company that helps governmental agencies implement, understand, and deal with technology, legalities and privacy of all types.
Legal experts say people could face discrimination, isolation and retribution if their identity is made public, so many do not come forward for testing. Also, there are great fears as to how the 'lists' of customers will be safeguarded between the restaurant and the government.
And there are those that say this is just the latest intrusion by government agencies into citizens' privacy. Yes, they already have your Driver's License information etc. But the idea of having to divulge your email and phone just to eat a sit-down meal is preposterous, say critics.
Gov. Inslee is a huge proponent of contact trace and test, already advertising for people to join the program, his 1,500 person "fire brigade."
There's already waves of criticism sweeping social media about those contact tracing workers, they're already drawing (perhaps unfair) comparisons to Hitler's "Gestapo," or "snitch police" as some call them.
And finally, tech experts debate the legality of widespread contact tracing without specific reasons, because of data breaches. They point out, if multi-million dollar worldwide companies with better-than-most security get hacked, what's to keep this contact tracing information from falling into the wrong hands. Or, as some anti-governmental critics say, the information being used the 'wrong way' against citizens.
Most experts fully expect a slew of legal challenges to this kind of program.
So read more, click on the button below for govtech.com.
More about the program itself, from MyNorthwest.com