The Department of Health (DPH) for Massachusetts stands accused of installing “spyware” onto the devices of a large number of people without either their consent or even knowledge in order to try and carry out COVID contact tracing, alleges one civil liberty law firm.
A filing from The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) from this past week accuses DPH of building a COVID contact tracing app alongside Google that was then installed on residents’ phones without their consent.
“These secret installations not only invade owners’ reasonable expectation of privacy, but they also intrude upon owners’ property right in their mobile devices by occupying valuable storage space,” explained the large class-action lawsuit, titled Wright v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The suit in question states that the actions taken by the DPH throughout the COVID pandemic were entirely unconstitutional and highlighted a “brazen disregard for civil liberties.” It also made the claim that the app was forcibly installed “secretly” on the phones of well over a million Bay State residents.
Even if someone chose to not opt in for the use of the tracking app, the lawsuit alleges that both the information and data about the user from the device could still be gathered via Bluetooth.
As explained by the NCLA, the app could only be gathered after accessing the device’s “settings” section of the device and then navigating to “view all apps.” One senior litigator for NCLA, Peggy Little, labeled the alleged actions of DPH on the same level as a “dystopian science fiction.”
“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,” she stated.
The NCLA is currently the representation of a pair of individuals who frequent Massachusetts (one has a home and the other works in the state) who say the app was installed on their Android phones without their permission. They stated that they fully deleted the app in the wake of finding it on their phones.
The group contrasts the alleged actions of the Massachusetts DPH with what was done by other states who attempted to push out similar apps, but people choose to opt in.
“Many states and foreign countries have successfully deployed contact tracing apps by obtaining the consent of their citizens before downloading software onto their smartphones,” stated Sheng Li, the NCLA counsel. “The government may not secretly install surveillance devices on your personal property without a warrant — even for a laudable purpose.”
In a release sent to the Boston Herald, DPH stated that it could not “comment on pending litigation.”