Alternatives to sharing COVID-19 data with law enforcement: Recommendations for stakeholders

Stephen Molldrem, Mustafa I. Hussain, Alexander McClelland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the COVID-19 pandemic, in some jurisdictions, police have become involved in enforcing coronavirus-related measures. Relatedly, several North American jurisdictions have established COVID-19 data sharing protocols with law enforcement. Research across a range of fields has demonstrated that involving police in matters of public health disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and does more harm than good. This is reflected in the consensus against COVID-19 criminalization that has emerged among civil society organizations focused on HIV, human rights, and harm reduction. The European Data Protection Board has also released guidelines against re-uses of COVID-19 data for law enforcement purposes. This article offers an overview of the harms of criminalizing illnesses and strategies for health stakeholders to seek alternatives to sharing COVID-19 data with police agencies while facilitating interoperability with healthcare first responders. It also presents case studies from two North American jurisdictions – Ontario and Minnesota – that have established routine COVID-19 data sharing with police. We recommended seven alternatives, including designating COVID-19 data as sensitive and implementing segmented interoperability with first responder agencies. These guidelines can help ensure that health information technology platforms do not become vehicles for the criminalization of COVID-19, and that health data stay within the health system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-140
Number of pages6
JournalHealth policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Criminal justice
  • Interoperability
  • Public health
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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