In a win for medical privacy in the Empire State, the New York Legislature has passed a pivotal bill that protects people’s private immunity information like COVID-19 vaccine status from being used to track their movements and be used against them in unauthorized ways. The Electronic Frontier Foundation advocated for the bill, now headed to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk to be signed into law.
A. 7326/S. 6541 protects the confidentiality of medical immunity information by limiting 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 in order to move forward; these passed the Senate and Assembly on June 2 and 3, respectively.
New Yorkers are often required to present information about their immunity—like vaccination records or test results—to get in the door at restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues. This bill protects them from that information being 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. Assuring people that their medical information will not be used in unauthorized ways increases much-needed trust in public health efforts.
This bill expressly prohibits immunity information from being shared with immigration or child services agencies seeking to deport someone or take away their children based on vaccination status. It also requires that those asking for immunity information must accept an analog credential, such as a paper record.
EFF has previously expressed privacy and security concerns about how the Excelsior Pass system, in which New Yorkers store and prove their immunity information, was introduced and how it will be expanded under current plans.
We must put privacy protections in place now to ensure personal medical information is kept safe throughout and beyond the pandemic, and that information won’t be used to harm the most vulnerable members of our society. EFF looks forward to this bill becoming law as soon as possible.