The Massachusetts Public Health Department (DPH) allegedly “worked with” Google to install its COVID-19 contact tracing app onto more than one million android devices without users’ permission or knowledge, a New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) lawsuit claims.
The app was first released in April 2021, but the DPH had a version secretly installed onto devices beginning that June after few Massachusetts residents installed it voluntarily, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The app allegedly causes devices to emit and receive Bluetooth signals even when users do not opt into COVID-19 exposure notifications, and nearby devices that feature the app consequently exchange data that can be linked to specific device owners and locations.
The DPH, Google and other third parties including app developers, device manufacturers and network providers can access such data and use it to determine device owners’ identities when it is written onto mobile devices’ systems, the lawsuit claims. It summarily accuses the department of installing “spyware that deliberately tracks and records movement and personal contacts onto over a million mobile devices without their owners’ permission and awareness.”