Despite federal laws protecting the identities of patients, hospitals in at least four states have been caught reporting to police the identities of those who test positive for COVID-19.
“In a growing number of cities and states, local governments are collecting the addresses of people who test positive for the coronavirus and sharing the lists with police and first responders,” ABC News reports.
“Law enforcement officials say this information sharing — which is underway in Massachusetts, Alabama, and Florida, and in select areas of North Carolina — will help keep officers and EMTs safe as they respond to calls at the homes of people who have been infected,” ABC News reports.
Many are skeptical of the claim the lists are necessary to protect first responders, as most people do not seek tests, most carriers do not show symptoms and standard protocols require them to treat everyone they encounter as possibly infected.
A list of those who tested positive would not change how police, firefighters, and EMTs respond to a call.
Many suspect the true purpose is to compile a database of those who can later be forcibly confined to their homes, as was done in Kentucky, where police surrounded the home of a man with COVID-19 and threatened him with arrest if the left the property.
“It’s not clear how this information sharing is taking place, or what precautions the government is using to share the sensitive data,” Carol Rose, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, tells ABC News.
“Who is in charge of making sure the information isn’t being misused or abused? How many people can access the data, and who is providing oversight of that access? Who will be responsible for ensuring the information is safely deleted once the order is rescinded? Even in a public health emergency, the government must make every effort to protect the rights of people experiencing illness or at risk of illness.”
Some police departments are even speaking out against the spy lists.
“Since COVID-19 is widely spread in our community, we worry that disclosure of the names and addresses of known COVID-19 cases would provide first responders with an incorrect assessment of where the risk lies and actually lead to reduced safety for our first responders,” Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for the Alameda, California police department, tells ABC News.