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Attorney General Reyes Urges Google and Apple to Ensure Contact Tracing Apps Protect Consumer Privacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2020

“I WILL CONTINUE TO AGGRESSIVELY ADVOCATE FOR THE PRIVACY AND PROTECTION OF UTAHN’S PERSONAL DATA.” —ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES
Attorney General Reyes Joins Bipartisan Coalition to Demand Apple and Google Ensure Consumer Privacy

SALT LAKE CITY – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is demanding Google and Apple ensure all contact tracing and exposure notification apps related to COVID-19 adequately protect consumers’ personal information.
 
Specifically, Attorney General Reyes and a bi-partisan coalition of 39 state attorneys general are urging Google and Apple to guarantee that such apps, when available to consumers, are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and the App Store once no longer needed by public health authorities.
 
Today, in a letter sent to the Chief Executive Officers of Apple and Google, the attorneys general acknowledge that while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy.
 
“We understand the value of using technology to limit exposure to COVID-19, but the personal information of Utahns must be safeguarded in the process. I believe we can find that balance. But, until we do, I will continue to aggressively advocate for the privacy and protection of Utahn’s personal data,” said Attorney General Reyes.
 
The coalition expressed concern regarding contact tracing and exposure notification apps available to consumers in Google Play and the App Store, particularly the “free” apps that utilize GPS tracking, offer in-app purchases, and are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution.
   
To protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts to monitor and address the spread of COVID-19, the letters ask Google and Apple to:

  1. Verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities;
  2. Remove any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above; and
  3. Pledge to remove all COVID-19 / coronavirus related exposure notification and contact tracing apps, including those that utilize the new exposure notification application program interfaces (APIs) developed by Google and Apple, from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends. In addition, the attorneys general asked Google and Apple to provide written confirmation to their offices once the apps have been removed or an explanation why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.


As of today, Utah has 15,344 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 8,552 patients have recovered and there have been 149 deaths.
 
Read a copy of the letter to Google and Apple here.
 
The attorneys general in Nebraska and Oregon sponsored the letter and are joined by attorneys general in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
 

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State AGs, Department of Justice Meet to Discuss Google Probe

February 5, 2020

Yesterday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the U.S. Department of Justice and fellow attorneys general to discuss coordinating efforts in the Google probe, which includes a bipartisan group of the nation’s attorneys general.

This follows the Department of Justice’s announcement in July 2019 that it was opening a broad antitrust investigation into “market-leading online platforms” – including Facebook, Amazon, and Google – and the September 2019 announcement by nearly all state attorneys general on plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets.

“We’re working well together and trying to make sure that there aren’t redundancies,” told Reuters outside the Justice Department. “We’re hoping to go as quickly as we possibly can but I don’t have a specific timetable.”

Read more here.

AG Reyes Statement on UK’s Assessment of Google in Competition and Markets Authority Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – This week, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released their Online Platforms and Digital Advertising Market Study Interim Report, which assesses the market power of Google and other online platforms. Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes issued the following statement:

“The CMA’s interim report reflects a growing concern over Google’s business practices and our office applauds the efforts of many other competition authorities around the world to examine the dominance and conduct of tech giant Google in online markets. As a leader in the multi-state, bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general, I pledge to closely follow the facts we discover in our own investigation to see if Google has harmed competition, undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, or violated users’ privacy and trust.”

In September, Attorney General Reyes and 49 other attorneys general launched a bipartisan investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws. The coalition announced plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers. This investigation is ongoing.

To view a copy of the report, click here

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Utah Attorney General Reyes Joins 50 Attorneys General in Multistate Google Investigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2019

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES JOINS 50 ATTORNEYS GENERAL IN GOOGLE MULTISTATE BIPARTISAN ANTITRUST INVESTIGATION 
 

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that Utah is joining the attorneys general in 48 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico in a multistate, bipartisan investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws.

The bipartisan coalition announced plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers. Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with Federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets.

“Now, more than ever, information is power, and the most important source of information in Americans’ day-to-day lives is the internet. When it comes to internet search, Google is-and has been-the 90% market share leader.” said Attorney General Reyes. “There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the dominant player if it does so fairly, but we are concerned Google’s dominance has been achieved and maintained through business practices designed to thwart competition and prevent new alternatives from ever existing. If true, such practices have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users’ privacy, and impermissibly put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information.

“At times, there is a fine line between aggressive and abusive business practices. This investigation will tell us if Google has crossed that line. We intend to closely follow the facts we discover in this case and proceed as necessary. I raised these issues with the FTC several years ago but didn’t have the resources as a single state to pursue this behemoth. I am glad so many of my colleagues have seen the wisdom and importance of pursuing this investigation.”

Past investigations of Google uncovered violations ranging from advertising illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission. None of these previous investigations, however, fully address the source of Google’s sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices with the intention to protect and maintain that power.
 

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