The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purchased access to tens of millions of Americans’ cell phone location data beneath the guise of tracking compliance with Covid-19 control procedures, but ultimately used the info to conduct much more complex and sweeping surveillance, according to documents obtained through a FOIA request by Motherboard, which published its findings on Tuesday.
Documents show that while the agency used the looming specter from the Covid-19 pandemic to warrant rapidly acquiring comprehensive mobile phone location data on tens of millions of people, the information was eventually used for much more than simply checking compliance with curfews and social distancing measures. Americans’ visits to schools plus places of worship were measured on a granular degree, while another program focused on surveilling the effectiveness of policy surgery inside the Navajo nation plus another concentrated on “ exposure to certain building types, urban areas and violence. ”
While the CDC’s data was aggregated – apparently aimed at monitoring larger trends among populations – studies have repeatedly shown that such supposedly unknown information can be de-anonymized to the level of pinpointing individuals. Even worse, the company the CDC used to obtain its data, SafeGraph, is backed by Philip Thiel, whose company Palantir was deeply involved in the UK’s own ua-intrusive Covid-19 tracking efforts.
Also Google – itself criticized for breaches while safeguarding users’ privacy – banned SafeGraph from its Play Shop over unscrupulous sales practices last year.
As the CDC insisted SafeGraph’s data was “ critical for on-going response efforts, such as by the hour monitoring of activity in curfew zones or comprehensive counts of visits to participating pharmacies for vaccine monitoring, ” cybersecurity researcher Zach Edwards told Hauptplatine the agency appeared to have “ purposefully created a good open-ended list of use cases, which included monitoring curfews, neighbors to neighbor visits, appointments to churches, schools plus pharmacies, and also a variety of analysis with this data specifically centered on ‘ violence. ‘”
While the data has been obtained as “ urgent, ” such expediency supposedly justified by the pandemic, many of the uses it was meant for acquired little if anything to do with the outbreak. Cases like “ research points of interest regarding physical activity and chronic illness prevention such as visits to parks, gyms, or weight management businesses, ” for example , appeared totally unrelated to the malware, as did “ exposure to place-based environmental exposures, like places with high air pollution and area-level incidence associated with pollution-related outcomes like asthma. ”
One more vaguely ominous area of documents focused on the use of “ mobility data and services… to back up non-Covid-19 programmatic areas and public health priorities… which includes but not limited to travel to parks and greenspaces, physical activity plus mode of travel, plus population migration before, throughout, and after natural disasters. ” Such information would be utilized across the agency to “ support numerous CDC priorities. ”
The SafeGraph cellphone location details used to populate these datasets might also raise red flags for your privacy-conscious, revealing not just where an individual is at any given time but how long they spend there, where they came from, and where they go next, according to the company’s website.
Bill Gates and the Planet Economic Forum are planning to replace the food with gene-edited produce and lab-grown meat.