In a bizarre Boston Globe story, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts expressed skepticism of a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — a lawsuit that alleges a vast breach of privacy and violation of human rights on the part of the state government.
The Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) conspired with Google to install spyware on Android phones in Massachusetts — without the users’ knowledge or permission — in 2021 and 2022 as part of a COVID-19 contact tracing effort, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 14 in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
The lawsuit cites hundreds of public complaints about the spyware — “Mass Notify” — installing itself on users phones without the permission of the user. The plaintiff’s analysis also claims the app collected and transmitted data on users whether they activated the program or not.
Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and Mass. DPH Commissioner Margret Clarke have refused for more than a week to answer even basic questions about the application, who authorized it, and what was done with the data unwittingly collected on more than one million American citizens.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which in recent years has transformed into a left-wing political organization rather than an organization committed to civil liberties, told the Boston Globe people shouldn’t really be concerned about the alleged violations of constitutional protections and human rights.
“The technology at issue in this case is very low on the list of things that should concern smartphone users,” said ACLU of Mass. Director of Technology Kade Crockford told the Boston Globe.
“While the technology’s value in terms of reducing viral transmission has not been demonstrated, we have seen no evidence that the system is violating people’s privacy,” she said.
Crockford didn’t say what steps she’d taken to look for evidence of a privacy violation and it’s not clear that she read the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the application collected and transmitted data to third-parties without users’ permission or knowledge using Bluetooth and wireless connections. That information included data on an individuals location and interaction with other smartphone users. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ analysis, that information could be de-anonymized by those who possess it to connect the private data with an individual.
The Boston Globe also attempted to delegitimize the lawsuit by noting that two of the lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case work for a non-profit group — the New Civil Liberties Alliance — which the paper claims has received funding from libertarian philanthropist Charles Koch.
Information about NCLA’s funding is included in the second paragraph of the story, an obvious attempt to downplay the assertions in the lawsuit. Yet Hiawatha Bray, the Boston Globe reporter who wrote the story, doesn’t include any information about the donors to the ACLU of Massachusetts.
The Boston Globe is owned by left-wing billionaire John W. Henry II, 73, and run by his wife Linda Pizutti, 44.
Henry has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic Party political committees over the years and is the owner of the Boston Red Sox. Henry also owns the Elysian, a yacht.
You can read the lawsuit for yourself here.