Lawsuit says Massachusetts DPH, Google 'secretly' installed COVID spyware on 1M phones

Lawsuit says Massachusetts DPH, Google ‘secretly’ installed COVID spyware on 1M phones

The state’s Department of Public Health has been accused of working with Google to “secretly” install COVID-19 contact tracing “spyware” on more than 1 million Android smartphones.

The New Civil Liberties Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, filed a lawsuit this week in US District Court on behalf of two Bay State Android users, who claim that a DPH contact-tracing app was downloaded to their phones on or about July 1, 2021, without “their permission or awareness.”

“Conspiring with a private company to hijack residents’ smartphones without the owners’ knowledge or consent is not a tool that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health may lawfully use in its efforts to combat COVID-19,” the complaint states.

“This flagrant disregard for civil liberties violates the Constitution of the United States and Massachusetts, and must stop now.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health declined to comment, stating that the department has not received any documentation related to the lawsuit, and “does not comment on pending litigation.”

The complaint alleges that DPH began working with Google on June 15, 2021 to install the app on more than 1 million Android phones in the Bay State, affecting people who live or work there.

This was allegedly done to “increase adoption” because “few Massachusetts residents voluntarily installed” the software.

Once the app is downloaded, the user’s phone communicates continuously and information is exchanged with other nearby devices via Bluetooth, the complaint states, creating a record of those communications.

If a user chooses the app and reports that they have COVID-19, the lawsuit said, an exposure notification will be sent to other individuals in the affected user’s contact history.

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