Koch-funded group sues US state over mobile ‘spyware’ • The Register

According to a class action lawsuit filed this week by the New Civil Liberties, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health conspired with Google to secretly install a COVID-19 tracing app on the devices of more than 1 million Android users without their Knowledge and without a search warrant to install alliance.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance claims to be a “nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group.” Right-wing supporters such as the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute are among the largest donors. In September 2020, the group represented a Virgiain landlord who was suing the Centers for Disease Control to allow him to evict tenants during the pandemic.

The Massachusetts app gave the health department, Google, application developers and others access to media access control device owner addresses, wireless network IP addresses, phone numbers, contacts and emails, according to the legal complaint, making those parties privy to the personal information, location and movement of the owners. If Android users discovered and deleted the COVID-19 tracer, the state health agency would reinstall it on their devices, the lawsuit says.

“In total, DPH installed spyware that intentionally tracks and records movement and personal contacts on over one million mobile devices without the permission or knowledge of their owners,” the lawsuit reads [PDF]. “To the best of our knowledge, this spyware still exists on the overwhelming majority of devices it was installed on.”

At least two dozen other states have also developed COVID-19 apps using Google APIs, but they used the outreach to encourage residents to voluntarily download the apps and opt in for contact tracing, the court documents said.

They claim Massachusetts is “the only state to covertly embed the contact-tracing app into mobile devices that locates DPH within its borders without obtaining the owners’ knowledge or consent.”

According to the lawsuit, which also names Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Margret Cooke as a defendant, it violates federal Android privacy protections and unreasonable searches, as well as state computer crime laws.

“The Massachusetts DPH, like any other government actor, is bound by state and federal constitutional and legal restrictions on its conduct,” NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel Peggy Little said in a statement. “This ‘Android attack’, deliberately aimed at overriding the constitutional and legal rights of citizens without their consent to be protected from government intrusion into their privacy, reads like dystopian science fiction – and needs to be seen by the courts be quickly declared invalid.”

According to the legal challenge, the plaintiffs are asking the court, among other things, to stop stealthily installing the contract tracking app without the device owner’s consent and to cooperate with Google to uninstall the app in cases where the owner hasn’t given permission and made a choice. to download the tracer. They also want the court to find that the tracing app’s “stealth installations” violate state and federal protections.

The lawsuit seeks to have the Board of Health pay all costs and attorneys’ fees related to the litigation, as well as nominal damages of $1.

When asked about the lawsuit, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health responded The registry that the department has not received the complaint and is not commenting on pending litigation.

Google has not responded to this The registry‘s request for comment. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/17/kochfunded_group_sues_us_state/ Koch-funded group sues US state over mobile ‘spyware’ • The Register

Rick Schindler

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