How Google Helped the Massachusetts Government Spy on People in the Pandemic
One of the most alarming things in recent history â other than US politicians funding Ukraineâs entire government with our tax dollars without permission â was the way that so many leaders trampled on the rights of their citizens during the âpandemic.â
Even a lot of Republican governors went mad with power over COVID. Latest case in point: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
According to a lawsuit filed against the state, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) worked directly with Google to install invasive contact tracing spyware on every Android phone in the state without the knowledge of the people.
And here we thought Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was bad!
She banned the sale of paint and carpeting to âstop the spread of coronavirus.â She forbade her subjects from going fishing or from traveling to their second home during the pandemic. (And then promptly got caught taking a family vacation at her second home.)
She even stuffed sick COVID patients into nursing homes and killed a bunch of people, as all the other blue-state governors did.
But even Gretchen Whitmer â as far as we know â didnât go so far as to install tracking software that spies on peopleâs locations and medical information without their knowledge or permission. The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) is the group suing for damages over Gov. Charlie Baker and Googleâs collusion to spy on more than 1 million Massachusetts residents.
Lawyers for the NCLA say that to the best of their knowledge, no other state went to such great lengths to spy on its people. Even California notified its residents that it wanted to install tracking software on their phones and gave them the choice to opt-out.
The lawsuit is Wright v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, et al. According to the NCLA, the Massachusetts DPH worked with Google to covertly install tracking software on every Android phone in the state. The app tracks and records the movements of every Android phone, in addition to accessing all of the phone ownerâs contacts.
The plaintiffs say that the installation of the spying app happened in June of 2021 â so Charlie Bakerâs team didnât waste much time in developing and deploying this. No search warrants were obtained to carry this out, obviously.
The problem with this mass spying operation is that it violated the constitutional and Massachusetts common-law rights regarding privacy and personal property. The government is required to gain permission before installing a tracking device on anyoneâs property.
For example, when the FBI wants to frame an autistic Muslim man with an âattempted terror attackâ and they decide to attach a tracking device to his car, they have to get a warrant to do so. The same principle applies when it comes to your smartphone.
Google automatically installed the spying app on more than a million phones through an automatic update. The phone owners were never notified. The app did not appear on the phonesâ screens when it was installed.
Owners could only locate it by going into the phoneâs settings and looking at the âAll Appsâ section. And get this â if they uninstalled the app, the Massachusetts DPH would covertly reinstall it immediately.
Android users couldnât get rid of it. Senior NCLA legal counsel Peggy Little stated in the lawsuit filing:
âThis âandroid attack,â 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 fictionâand must be swiftly invalidated by the court.â
The amazing thing about this is that Charlie Bakerâs DPH and Google got caught red-handed doing this. Thereâs no dispute that it happened.
And yet theyâve still made no attempt to apologize for brazenly violating the privacy and property rights of more than a million people in Massachusetts.