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Google and US government sued for installing “Covid spyware” without users’ knowledge

Google and US government sued for installing "Covid spyware" without users' knowledge

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the US state of Massachusetts over what the plaintiffs allege is covert mass surveillance through “Covid spyware” installed on more than a million phones.

The lawsuit seeks notice of injunctive relief (an attempt to legally compel the defendants to fulfill their obligations), and nominal damages, and was filed on November 14, 2022 by the nonprofit New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA). The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Commissioner Margaret Cook are named as defendants. The case will be heard in the United States District Court of Massachusetts. The complaint contains nine counts against DPH, alleging violations of Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights (protection against unlawful search and rights from criminal and civil proceedings). Additionally, DPH/Google’s actions are believed to violate Articles X and XIV of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. According to the report, DPH partnered with Google to install the spyware in an “auto-install” mode on over a million handsets without users’ consent or notification.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Google installed the Covid spyware on more than a million Android phone users without their knowledge or consent. Even if someone finds and deletes the app, it keeps reinstalling itself.

According to the NCLA, the reason to fight the pandemic by introducing the Covid tracking app violates not only the state constitution but also the US Constitution, condemning it as a blatant disregard for civil liberties. Illegal monitoring and surveillance of people and government agency access to their locations and personal communications have been found to violate privacy and property rights.

Wright v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health et al. The controversial app allegedly tracks and records phone owners’ movements and interactions “without their consent or knowledge.” According to a class-action lawsuit that names Massachusetts residents and Android phone users as plaintiffs, DPH and Google began engaging in hidden activity in July 2021. Explains how the hidden app behaved when it was “automatically installed”. Consent or knowledge of the device owner: Does not appear on one of the home screens – like newly installed Android apps. Instead, the user can only know its presence by exploring “Settings”: access it first, then go to the “View all apps” feature. In other words, plaintiffs argue, it’s not something a typical user would do often.

Worse yet, even if the user decides to view all installed apps and uninstall the covid tracking app installed by Google – Massachusetts DPH, it will be reinstalled. Initially DPH apparently offered the application to Massachusetts residents, and “a few” decided to install it, knowing what it was and what it was. However, since the app was not a success, it was secretly installed on the phones of more than a million people.

In a press release announcing the class-action suit, the NCLA emphasized the importance of obtaining consent and ensuring that Covid-monitoring apps are installed only voluntarily — a “necessity in a free society,” even if it’s the most difficult way. , NCLA General Counsel Sheng Li noted. Becky Little, who serves as senior litigation counsel for the nonprofit, noted that the Massachusetts DPH, as a government agency, is legally bound by both the U.S. Constitution and state laws. It describes the situation of the secretly installed app as an “Android attack”. According to the lawyer – it “sounds like dystopian science fiction” – but it should be “quickly banned” by the court.

You can read a copy of the case Here.

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