Pennsylvania investigating if contact tracers violated state’s recording law

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is investigating whether contact tracers violated state law by recording phone conversations detailing personal health information without telling contacts, while Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office is investigating the data breach on multiple fronts.

This comes after Target 11 exposed a massive contact tracing data breach where the personal information of more than 70,000 people across Pennsylvania that was collected during contact tracing was exposed.

Internal company messages obtained by Target 11 suggest that there was some confusion regarding the law. Contact tracers hired by Insight Global may not have told contacts in Pennsylvania that their phone conversations were being recorded, which is a violation of the state’s wiretap law.

Insight Global is a staffing company based in Atlanta, Georgia, that was contracted to conduct the contact tracing.

Former employees tell Target 11 that Insight Global began recording calls in November for training and quality assurance, but according to one former employee, the company didn’t inform the state Health Department. The former employee said they reached out to the state in December and told them it was happening.

The state Health Department released a statement regarding the new allegations, saying “the Department of Health is following up on these complaints, however we are unable to provide further comment due to the ongoing litigation.”

The company has been paid $29 million to hire 1,000 contact tracers in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The state previously indicated that they would terminate the contract when it ends in July.

Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed that Wednesday.

”It should not happen. That was wrong. The company admitted it, understands that and I think took action and we’ve made our decision that we are going to hold them accountable,” Wolf said. “I don’t think there’s any disagreement that what happened was wrong. That anything that compromises confidential information is wrong. We do everything we can at the state level to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

And despite an email obtained by Target 11 that a former Insight Global employee alerted the state Health Department to data security concerns in February. The governor claims they were unaware until Channel 11 showed them the compromised personal health information last month.

Insight Global did not respond following a request for comment.

Two of the attorneys who filed a class action lawsuit against the state Health Department and Insight Global reacted to news that some of the contacts may have been recorded without their knowledge.

“If the policy and procedures of Pennsylvania’s wiretap law was not followed, if that didn’t occur, this is troubling on magnificent-proportion levels,” Phil DiLucente said.

Shapiro said in a news release that “any allegations of sensitive personal information being mismanaged or leaked is a serious matter.”