Jared Kushner, a top White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and his coronavirus-fighting team are reaching out to health technology companies about creating a national surveillance system to track the spread of the pandemic, according to a report.
The monitoring system would provide the government a near real-time view of where people were being treated and whether hospitals have the capacity to treat them, Politico reported on Tuesday.
The information would help the government determine which areas of the country where social distancing guidelines should be relaxed or bolstered.
The plan by Kushner’s White House task force, which is separate from the team Vice President Mike Pence heads up, would collect information from multiple private-sector databases and would allow the government to pinpoint medical resources where they are most needed, the report said.
“It allows you to be much more targeted and precise in how you engage,” one person involved in the discussions told Politico. “They need data to make the policy decisions, and so that’s what we and others now have been asked to do.”
But some critics fear what effect the collection of sensitive health information in a national database would have on civil liberties once the virus subsides, and compare it to the Patriot Act that was enacted after the 9/11 attacks giving the government expanded surveillance power.
“This is a genuine crisis — we have to work through it and do our best to protect people’s health,” Jessica Rich, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau, told the website. “But doing that doesn’t mean we have to destroy privacy.”
The White House declined comment, the report said, but Kushner adviser Avi Berkowitz said the report was “false.”
“This story makes no sense and is completely false. The White House gets many unsolicited random proposals on a variety of topics, but Jared has no knowledge of this proposal or the people mentioned in this article who may have submitted it,” he said in a statement to Politico.