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How Is My Data Being Used and How Is My Privacy Being Protected When Contact Tracing?

Last Updated: 06/09/2020

Your information is confidential. Your name will not be released to your contacts or your COVID-19 status – that information will only be known to public health officials and our local health department partners, if needed.

If you test positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer will work with you to list all the people who were within six feet of you for more than 10 minutes starting two days before you first had symptoms. If you don't have symptoms, we'll ask about your activity during the two days before your diagnosis.

We will also ask for the phone numbers of anyone you tell us about so they can be called and cared for. That information is used ONLY for the purpose of helping those people to get tested or to quarantine.

We will encourage you to let your contacts know about your illness, and we will call your contacts to let them know they have been exposed and what steps they should take to protect themselves and their loved ones. But again, we will not tell them your name only that they may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

How Is My Data Stored and Protected?

We take your privacy seriously and strictly adhere to four key principles when it comes to protecting you and your data:

  1. Consent: We only collect information about your contacts that you provide us.
  2. Transparency: We will be clear on how the information you provide us is being used. In this case, we are only using the names and phone numbers you provide for the purpose of helping those people get tested or self-quarantine, if needed.
  3. Security: We are taking every security precaution we can to protect your personal data and prevent it from being shared unnecessarily or leaked.
  4. Limits: We have placed strict limits on the contact tracing program – we collect limited data (only what is needed to keep you and your close contacts safe), use it for limited purposes (stop the spread of COVID-19), and limit who it is shared with (public health officials and our local partners).

In keeping with our principles, we wanted to let you know we are working with Dimagi to deploy their open source CommCare platform across the State to ensure we centralize the State's contact tracing efforts.

Collecting information in a uniform way makes it easier for health officials to share information and to track the virus across New Jersey. When time is of the essence, we cannot lose any of it trying to work across different platforms. It will also ensure connectivity with contact tracers with our neighbors, including New York State and Philadelphia.

The CommCare platform is fully HIPAA-compliant to protect your privacy and utilizes the strongest, state-of-the-art industry-standard encryption to protect your data during collection, processing, and storage.

No one outside of our contact-tracing program will have access to CommCare, and all information is off-loaded after 45 days to the state's epidemiological database.

This platform is not the same thing as "exposure notification" or "digital alerting tools," consumer apps like those made by Google and Apple that offer a way for the public to track if they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive and also entered that information into their own phone. The State of New Jersey is neither pursuing nor promoting exposure notification or digital alerting technology at this time.

It's also important to underscore that your information remains confidential. Your name will not be released to your contacts or your COVID-19 status –- and the information you share will not be used for the purposes of law enforcement or immigration enforcement in any way. In addition, it will not negatively affect your public charge assessment or be used to deny access to health care or any other essential service.

Source: Governor's Remarks 5/12/20; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200512a.shtml