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Sen. Maria Cantwell. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senators are preparing today to introduce bipartisan legislation that would require commercial contact-tracing and exposure notification apps to only be deployed in collaboration with public health authorities.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are trying to put privacy safeguards in place as health officials look to use tech — including a Bluetooth-based system from Apple and Google — to help Americans learn if they've come into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

Details: The "Exposure Notification Privacy Act" is sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy. Per Cantwell's office, in addition to barring the private sector from going it alone with apps not sanctioned by public health authorities, the bill would:

  • Ensure that the use of coronavirus contact tracing apps is voluntary and that they get opt-in consent before collecting information from consumers.
  • Prohibit any commercial use of data gathered through such tools, and limit the collection and use to only what is necessary for the system.
  • Allow users to delete their data.
  • Require that exposure notification systems only accept authorized medical diagnoses.

Big picture: This is one of several bills aimed at protecting privacy in contact-tracing apps. House and Senate Democrats teamed up on one in May aimed at coronavirus and future outbreaks, while Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker led Republicans in a more narrowly tailored bill.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to remove inaccurate information provided to Axios. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is not a cosponsor of the legislation, as originally stated.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.