Massachusetts secretly put in COVID adware app on smartphones: lawsuit

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[Editor’s Note: Readers are asking how to find out if this app is on their Android device. A tipster says you must search for “Mass Notify” to locate it. If you live in Maine and find this spyware on your phone, please send us a screenshot or picture.]

The Massachusetts Division of Well being secretly put in surveillance software program on New Englanders’ smartphones with out their consent, a lawsuit filed Monday in Massachusetts District Courtroom alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts labored with Google to develop a contact tracing app for residents’ smartphones close to the top of the COVID-19 epidemic.

However when few residents voluntarily downloaded the app, Massachusetts made the surveillance app obtain to Mass. residents’ smartphones. and even from New Hampshire residents who labored within the state, with out the customers’ permission or information.

“To extend adoption, starting June 15, 2021, DPH labored with Google to secretly set up the Contact Tracing app on multiple million Android cell gadgets positioned in Massachusetts with out the information or permission of the machine homeowners,” signifies the demand.

“When some Android machine homeowners found and subsequently eliminated the app, DPH reinstalled it on their gadgets. The app causes an Android cell machine to continually join and alternate data with different close by gadgets by way of Bluetooth and creates a log of those different connections.

“If a consumer opts in and studies being contaminated with COVID-19, a notification of publicity is distributed to others within the contaminated consumer’s connection report,” the lawsuit states.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s communications crew didn’t reply to an electronic mail or a cellphone name in search of touch upon whether or not the governor knew about or approved the covert set up of the app on folks’s telephones.

The Mass. Division of Public Well being declined to touch upon the lawsuit and didn’t reply to questions on the place the knowledge was saved or who approved the power with out a allow.

A number of different states have used comparable contact tracing apps; nevertheless, Mass. it was the one state that surreptitiously put in and reinstalled the app on customers’ telephones.

Customers affected by the clandestine software had details about their travels, social interactions and Web exercise collected and handed over to state authorities. The app has taken steps to cover itself on customers’ telephones, residing contained in the “settings” operate as a substitute of the “apps” file. If customers found the app and deleted it, the app could be reinstalled on their telephones with out their permission.

In line with the lawsuit, there isn’t any legislation in Massachusetts that permits the state authorities to put in adware on residents’ telephones with out the customers’ consent.

Hundreds of consumer feedback on the app present customers throughout the state complaining concerning the app being put in on their telephones.

The lawsuit alleges that DPH started putting in the adware on the telephones of people that lived in Mass or traveled by the state on or round June 15, 2021. That is completed by accessing smartphone geolocation information.

“Massachusetts DPH developed the app utilizing the API supplied by Google and Google
explicitly said that its workers “have been working with the Massachusetts Division of Public Well being” to make sure that the app could be “robotically distributed” to “Android gadgets,” the lawsuit states.

“These ‘clear indicators of encouragement, help and participation of the Authorities’
proves that Google acted as an instrument of DPH when it put in DPH Contact
Monitor the app on hundreds of thousands of Android gadgets with out their homeowners’ permission or information,” it claims.

The lawsuit alleges that DPH’s actions represent a sequence of torts that brought on hurt to a complete class of plaintiffs. The legal professionals submitting the swimsuit allege that the Mass DPH violated the Fourth Modification to the US Structure, Article XIV of the Invoice of Rights, the Fifth Modification of the US Structure, Article X of the Invoice of Rights . Pc Fraud and Abuse Act.

They’re in search of an injunction in opposition to the continued set up of the adware and an order requiring DPH to work with Google to facilitate the elimination of the adware from customers’ gadgets. The swimsuit claims to have attorneys’ charges coated, however asks for symbolic damages of $1.

The attorneys submitting the lawsuit are Thomas H. Curran and Peter Antonelli of Curran & Antonelli, LLP, and Sheng Li and Margaret A. Little of the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Washington, DC.

UPDATE: A reader in Maine despatched on this photograph of the app fortunately snooping on their cellular phone, so Mainers could also be affected as effectively. The girl in query has solely traveled to Massachusetts a few times, and that journey occurred in September of this 12 months, suggesting that the unlawful surveillance marketing campaign is ongoing.

This story shall be up to date if spokespersons from Governor Baker’s workplace or the Mass. Division of Public Well being reply.

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