EFF was proud to support New York’s A. 7326/S. 6541, which the legislature passed to protect the confidentiality of medical immunity information. It limits what data can be collected or shared, who it can be shared with, and how long it can be stored. (In New York, bills must have identical versions in each chamber.) It’s important to put privacy protections in place now to ensure personal medical information is kept safe, and that that information won’t be used to harm the most vulnerable members of our society.
The original bill would have protected people from having their information misused by private companies, the government, or other entities that wish to track their movements or use their private medical information to punish or discriminate against them. It also would have expressly prohibited immunity information from being shared with immigration agencies seeking to deport someone, or with child services seeking to take away their children. Finally, it would have required those asking for immunity information to accept an analog credential, such as a paper record.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law at the end of December. Unfortunately, she amended the bill the legislature passed to weaken some of its provisions on data sharing.
New Yorkers are better off with this law on the books. But it’s disappointing to see signing amendments that run counter to the heart of the bill: that public health requires public trust. We should never worry that seeking health care, especially for something as routine as a vaccine, will land us in legal trouble.
We share the disappointment of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), whose director Donna Lieberman said in a statement:
In the face of rising COVID cases and other infectious diseases, this is certainly a step in the right direction. Yet the Governor’s insistence on chapter amendments make it a missed opportunity to ensure New Yorkers can be as confident as possible sharing the personal information required to get a vaccine or use a vaccine passport. No one should be criminalized or deported as a result of participating in public health responses.
We agree. We hope that other states will recognize the importance of protecting vaccine information and pass legislation to fully protect that information from falling into unexpected hands.