Apple Sends Letter to Senators Confirming Privacy and Security of COVID-19 App

Apple last week sent a letter to a group of U.S. senators who had questioned the privacy and security of the COVID-19 app and website that Apple designed in partnership with the CDC, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and FEMA.


In the letter [PDF], published on Friday and highlighted today by Bloomberg, Apple provided specific answers to each of the questions the senators had asked, and clarified that the app and website were built with privacy as a priority.

Consistent with Apple's strong dedication to user privacy, the COVID-19 app and website were built to protect the privacy and security of users' data. As you note, use of the tools do not require a sign-in or association with a user's Apple ID, and users' individual responses are not sent to Apple or any government organization. Access to important information and guidance regarding individual health or the health of a loved one should not require individuals to compromise their privacy rights. Rather, it is in times like these, that our commitment to protecting those rights is most important. Our COVID-19 app and website were designed with that in mind.

The senators asked for specific details on Apple's agreements with the federal government and/or state governments, with Apple clarifying that Apple entered into an agreement with HHS through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and the CDC for the development of the website.

Strong privacy terms were included, such as express consent required for any data transfer, the aggregation and de-identification of any information received by the CDC, and an agreement that any information obtained by the app is strictly to be used for improving the COVID-19 Triage Tools that are included.

The letter clarifies that the app and the screening site are not covered or subject to HIPAA laws in the United States as no health insurance companies or health care providers are privy to the information.

Apple says it does not collect any information entered into the website or the app, and applies the same data minimization principles to the COVID-19 tool as it does to other products. The only data that is stored is data necessary to support the operation of the app, which includes non-personally identifiable analytics information regarding the use of the website and app, such as total number of visits, whether crashes have occurred, and whether the screener tool has been started, canceled, or completed.

Apple confirmed that it commits to refrain from using data collected on the website and app for commercial purposes, and will never sell information to third-parties. Apple's full letter to the U.S. senators can be read on the web for those interested.

The COVID-19 app and website have been available since late March, and Apple recently improved both tools with links to state guidelines and self-care information. Apple late last week also announced a new partnership with Google that will see the two tech companies developing a privacy-focused opt-in contact tracing tool that will be added to iPhone and Android smartphones.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
7 months ago
I'm sure these senators in their 70s and 80s will understand the letter just as much as my mother understands how to sort her email without calling me for help or force quitting an iPhone app.

We won't even get started with her Comcast remote idiocy.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


I'm sure these senators in their 70s and 80s will understand the letter just as much as my mother understands how to sort her email without calling me for help or force quitting an iPhone app.

We won't even get started with her Comcast remote idiocy.

It’s their job to understand. How could they ask the question if they didn’t understand the subject matter?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago
“Apple gives credence to political grandstanding”

They should have ignored that garbage.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


I'm sure these senators in their 70s and 80s

One of them is 74, but the others are 66, 55, and 50. ??‍♂️
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago
Senators: *disappointed*
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


I'm sure these senators in their 70s and 80s will understand the letter just as much as my mother understands how to sort her email without calling me for help or force quitting an iPhone app.

We won't even get started with her Comcast remote idiocy.

My In-Laws, “Yea, I hit a button and now when I talk to the remote it wont go to Hallmark.” Can you fix this over the phone. ”We dont know where the original TV remote is but it says cast on the screen”. Ha, we did in fact get it fixed. I agree a PDF is not going to fix the issue of understanding what was already easy enough to to follow.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...