Lawsuit Claims Massachusetts Installed COVID-19 'Spyware' On 1 Million Devices

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Nov 19, 2022 - 04:00 AM

Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Google Pixel 7 Pro phone is displayed at its launch in New York on Oct. 6, 2022. (Thomas Urbain/AFP via Getty Images)

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly working with Google to install “spyware” onto the Android devices of a million state residents without their knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plaintiffs Robert Wright and Johnny Kula were among 1 million Massachusetts residents who had the state’s “COVID Exposure Settings: US-MA” app auto-installed without their consent, according to the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), the nonpartisan civil rights group that filed the lawsuit (pdf) on Tuesday.

The app, once automatically installed, didn’t appear on the device’s home screen as newly-installed apps typically do. Instead, it was invisible and could only be found by opening “settings” and using the “view all apps” feature, according to NCLA.

This meant that many device users were unaware of its presence. Many have decried this as an invasion of privacy.

The NCLA declared the action a “brazen disregard” of civil liberties, saying in a statement the app was installed “without obtaining any search warrants, in violation of the device owners’ constitutional and common-law rights to privacy and property.”

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

Screenshot of the COVID Exposure Settings: US-MA app on the Google Play Store, on Nov. 18, 2022. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

‘Government May Not Secretly Install Surveillance’ on Devices

Other states and foreign countries mostly tried to persuade their citizens to voluntarily install contact tracing apps, even if it meant fewer people took it up, according to Sheng Li, litigation counsel for NCLA.

“The government may not secretly install surveillance devices on your personal property without a warrant—even for a laudable purpose,” Li said. “For the same reason, it may not install surveillance software on your smartphone without your awareness and permission.”

The NCLA has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to block the continued installation of the app on private devices “without the knowledge or permission of device owners.”

The lawsuit also asks the judge to make Massachusetts DPH work with Google to uninstall the app from “private Android mobile devices where the device owner did not give permission for such installation.”

The plaintiffs also want the state to declare that its actions violated Fourth Amendment rights and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

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