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Washington State Contact-Tracing Mandate Rebuffed By ACLU, Rescinded; Michigan Version Stands

In May, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee required businesses to obtain contact information from their customers so that state officials could conduct contact tracing should COVID-19 outbreaks develop.

The ACLU of Washington protested the measure, and Inslee quickly retracted the mandate.

“We have serious concerns with any plan that would require people to disclose their names and/or contact information and whereabouts without strict controls on the storage and accessibility of such information,” the ACLU of Washington state wrote. “Normally, judicial oversight or, at a minimum, informed consent would be required to allow others to access and use personally identifying information and related data about travel and association with others. Business logs cannot be susceptible to disclosure beyond the tightly limited purposes of contact tracing. Without appropriate safeguards, contact information can be disclosed to immigration agents, law enforcement, advertising companies, identity thieves, stalkers, and harassers. If providing contact information is mandatory, rather than voluntary, this may have the effect of excluding people from public accommodations for fear of nonconsensual data sharing and other forms of surveillance abuses.”

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a similar requirement for state businesses, effective Nov. 2.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.