The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid for location data harvested from tens of millions of cell phones to track compliance with Covid-19 lockdown measures, according to a shocking report by Vice News
The Health agency paid spy firm $420,000 to track the cell phones of miliions of Americans to see if they were complying with lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions during the pandemic.
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The documents showed that the CDC planned to use the data to analyze compliance with curfews, track patterns of people visiting K-12 schools, churches and specifically monitor the effectiveness of policy in the Navajo Nation.
Summit News reports: The reports states that the CDC paid $420,000 for one year of data from a company called SafeGraph, which links up with app developers to harvest location data from people’s phones. When people download the apps to their devices, they are asked to accept terms that include sharing location data.
The company, which is linked to a former head of Saudi intelligence, has since been banned from the Google Play Store for violating its T&Cs on data collection.
The documents obtained by Vice state that the procurement request for the data by the CDC was labelled as an “URGENT COVID-19” request and should be given priority.
The documents outline several “potential CDC use cases for data,” specifically listing “the effect of large-scale anti-contagion policies on the COVID-19 pandemic,” “Examination of COVID-19 vaccination rates, mobility, … at the county or sub-county level (this could also be applies to flu and mask use),” and “examination of the correlation of mobility patterns data and rise in COVID-19 cases”.
A CDC document obtained by Vice admits that the data “has been critical for ongoing response efforts, such as hourly monitoring of activity in curfew zones or detailed counts of visits to participating pharmacies for vaccine monitoring.”
Another section notes that “CDC has interest in continued access to this mobility data as the country opens back up. This data is used by several teams/groups in the response and have been resulting in deeper insights into the pandemic as it pertains to human behavior.”
It is believed that at least 20 million active cellphone users per day in the US had data harvested by the process.
SafeGraph has also been accused of selling location data of visitors to abortion clinics, which the company this week announced it will halt.
As we previously noted, reports revealed that Government spies in the UK were monitoring the movement of British people minute by minute to check if they were complying with government restrictions.
The London Telegraph (Paywall) reported in late 2020 that spies from Britain’s most secretive intelligence and security organisation, Government Communications Headquarters, had embedded a ‘cell’ within Number 10 Downing Street in order to provide Prime Minister Boris Johnson with real time information pertaining to the public’s movements.
The Daily Mail also reported on the development, noting that GCHQ, normally tasked with spying on terrorists and foreign powers, was turned on the British public to gauge whether people were following the COVID ‘rules’ or not.
The report noted that as well as tracking the movement of people, the spies were collecting information on “internet searches for holidays and jobs.”
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