A Koch-funded group is suing a US state over portable 'spyware' • The Register

A Koch-funded group is suing a US state over portable ‘spyware’ • The Register

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health conspired with Google to secretly install a COVID-19 tracking app on more than 1 million Android users’ devices without their knowledge and without obtaining court orders, according to a class action lawsuit filed this week by a new civil liberties organization. alliance.

The new Civil Liberties Alliance claims to be a “non-partisan, non-profit civil rights group.” that it biggest donors Right-wingers include such as the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute. In September 2020, the group represented an owner from Virginia lawsuit The Centers for Disease Control to allow him to evict tenants during a pandemic.

According to the legal complaint, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s application, Google, app developers and others, gave access to device owners’ media access control addresses, wireless network IP addresses, phone numbers, contacts, and emails, making those parties privy to the owners’ personal information, location, and movement. The lawsuit alleges that if Android users discover and delete the COVID-19 tracking software, the government health agency will reinstall it on their devices.

“In short, the EPA knowingly installed spyware that tracks and records movement and personal contacts on more than 1 million mobile devices without the owners’ permission or awareness,” the suit says. [PDF]. “Based on knowledge and belief, spyware is still present in the vast majority of devices on which it is installed.”

At least two dozen other states have also developed COVID-19 apps using Google APIs, but have used community outreach to encourage residents to voluntarily download apps and opt-in to contact tracing, court documents say.

They claim that Massachusetts is “the only state to surreptitiously embed a contact tracing app on mobile devices designated by the Department of Public Health within its borders, without the owners’ knowledge or consent.”

According to the lawsuit, this violates federal Android device owners’ privacy and unreasonable search protection measures as well as the state’s computer crime laws, which also names Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Margaret Cook as a defendant.

Peggy Little, Senior Litigation Counsel for NCLA, said: statement. “This ‘bot attack’, deliberately designed to override the constitutional and legal rights of citizens to be free from government intrusions on their privacy without their consent, reads like dystopian science fiction – and should be swiftly invalidated by a court.”

According to the legal challenge, the plaintiffs are asking the court to, among other things, stop secretly installing a contract tracking app without device owners’ consent, and work with Google to uninstall the app in cases where the owner did not give permission and opt-in to download the tracking. They also want the court to declare that the “secret installations” of the tracking app violate state and federal protections.

The suit seeks to oblige the health agency to pay all costs and attorneys’ fees related to the legal battle, and a token $1 in damages.

When asked about the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health log The department did not receive the case and did not comment on the pending case.

Google did not respond to logComment request. ®

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