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Mass. Health Officials Worked With Google to Covertly Install COVID ‘Spyware’ Into 1 Million Phones, Lawsuit Claims
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly using Google technology to covertly install tracking apps on over one million Android phones as part of the state government’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a nonpartisan civil rights firm, accused the Bay State’s health department of “brazen disregard for civil liberties” by installing “spyware that deliberately tracks and records movement and personal contacts onto over a million mobile devices without their owners’ permission and awareness.” The class-action suit claims DPH is in violation of both the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.
“Conspiring with a private company to hijack residents’ smartphones without the owners’ knowledge or consent is not a tool that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (‘DPH’) may lawfully employ in its efforts to combat COVID-19,” the lawsuit said. According to NCLA, DPH worked with Google to develop a contract tracing app, which in April 2021 became available for Massachusetts residents to download voluntarily. Few residents opted to use the app, according to the suit.
“To increase adoption, starting on June 15, 2021, DPH worked with Google to secretly install the Contact Tracing App onto over one million Android mobile devices located in Massachusetts without the device owners’ knowledge or permission,” NCLA claimed in the lawsuit. The filing alleged that when some Android device owners discovered and subsequently deleted the app, DPH would re-install it onto their devices.
Grieving Parents Push for Kids’ Online Safety Bills During Lame Duck
Congress has a busy itinerary in the lame duck session, but some grieving parents believe lawmakers should have a clear legislative priority: protecting minors from the harms they say led to their children’s deaths.
A group of mothers whose children’s deaths were tied to social media are meeting with lawmakers this week, and sent a letter to congressional leaders, to push Congress to pass two bills that would add additional regulations governing how tech companies operate for children and teens.
The group includes parents of kids who died by fentanyl-laced drugs purchased on apps, by suicide after being cyberbullied online and by participating in a dangerous viral “choking challenge.”
“I want social media companies to be held accountable for their products,” Kristin Bride, one of the parents, said Tuesday on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Bride and other activist parents are pushing for the Senate to pass the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act 2.0 (COPPA 2.0). The bills advanced out of a Senate committee in July with bipartisan support.
‘An Anti-Science Institution’: Long After End of COVID Pandemic, Notre Dame Imposes Vaccine Mandate on All Students, Even Remote Ones, for 2023-24 School Year
Notre Dame’s University Health Services announced Tuesday that it was imposing the mandate on all students for the next school year. In order to attend classes on campus, and even remotely, next year, students must receive a booster of the COVID vaccine. Conservatives blasted the university for imposing the policy on students.
Mary Frances Myler, a postgraduate fellow at Notre Dame’s Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, shared a screenshot of the email on Twitter. “As of today, Notre Dame will require yet ANOTHER round of the vaccine for students,” Myler wrote. “The pandemic ended, but the COVID Regime remains fully intact and detached from reality.”
As with all required University vaccines, if you fail to complete this requirement or are not granted an exemption, a hold will be placed on your student account, which will prevent you from registering for classes for the fall 2023 semester,” the email stated. “All current students have until Wednesday, March 1, 2023 to fulfill the bivalent booster vaccine requirement for the 2023-24 academic year.”
Tyson Foods Ends COVID Vaccine Mandate for Employees
Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN.N) confirmed on Wednesday it eliminated a requirement that employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations, a step the company said improved meatpacking operations after plants closed in 2020 due to outbreaks among workers early in the pandemic.
The biggest U.S. meat company by sales lifted the mandate on Oct. 31, one year after imposing it, according to a report Tyson filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. The requirement “generally improved our ability to operate our business effectively in fiscal 2022,” the report said.
The virus now presents a lower threat than when Tyson decided in August 2021 to require that employees be vaccinated by that November, company spokesman Derek Burleson told Reuters on Wednesday.
Tyson runs slaughterhouses in rural areas where some residents were reluctant to get vaccinated. The company said last year it paid employees $200 to get vaccinated and also compensated workers if they were vaccinated outside normal work hours or away from a Tyson location.
Banking Giants and New York Fed Start 12-Week Digital Dollar Pilot
Global banking giants are starting a 12-week digital dollar pilot with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the participants announced on Tuesday.
Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L), Mastercard Inc. (MA.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are among the financial companies participating in the experiment alongside the New York Fed’s innovation center, they said in a statement. The project, which is called the regulated liability network, will be conducted in a test environment and use simulated data, the New York Fed said.
The pilot will test how banks using digital dollar tokens in a common database can help speed up payments. Earlier this month, Michelle Neal, head of the New York Fed’s market’s group, said it sees promise in using a central bank digital dollar to speed up settlement time in currency markets.
Republican ‘Censorship’ Lawsuit Paves the Way for Congressional Investigations of Biden
Congressional Republicans don’t yet have subpoena power to investigate the Biden administration, but some of their investigative targets are already yielding fruit thanks to a lawsuit filed by conservative state attorneys general.
A federal judge in Louisiana on Monday ordered an FBI cybersecurity official to be deposed in a lawsuit alleging that the FBI coerced social media companies to block stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the 2020 election.
The FBI deposition is one of several sought by the state Republican officials in a lawsuit accusing Biden officials of effectively enforcing government censorship by pushing social media companies to, among other things, police speech about the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, the efficacy of face masks and healthcare measures intended to curb the spread of the virus, as well as claims about election integrity and the security of voting by mail.
Republican lawmakers in Washington have said that when they take over leadership of House committees they plan to conduct aggressive investigations of the Biden administration. That includes probes related to Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, of COVID origins and what they say were social media censorship of conservative views on COVID public-health restrictions.
Chinese City Plans 250,000 Quarantine Beds to Fight Virus
China’s southern metropolis of Guangzhou announced plans Thursday to build quarantine facilities for nearly 250,000 people to fight surging coronavirus outbreaks even as the national government tries to reduce the impact of anti-disease controls that have confined millions of people to their homes.
China’s infection numbers are low compared with the United States and other major countries, but the ruling Communist Party is trying to isolate every case. Repeated closures of neighborhoods, schools and businesses are fueling public frustration and clashes with health workers.
Authorities in Guangzhou sent 95,300 people from the city’s Haizhu district to quarantine centers or for hospital treatment, the government announced.
Guangzhou will add 246,407 beds, including 132,015 in hospital isolation wards and 114,392 for people who are infected but have no symptoms, the city government said. A series of rapid construction initiatives in China since the 2020 start of the pandemic have built hospitals with thousands of beds in as little as a week.
China’s Workers Fight Back Against State’s Strict COVID Rules
Public frustration at harsh COVID-19 rules boiled over in a megacity in southern China this week as residents clashed with police in rare scenes of violent defiance.
This week’s rare clashes with local authorities were triggered by a lack of income due to shuttering factories and severed transport links out of the province, as well as a shortage of food and other provisions unattainable during lockdown. Residents in “high-risk” neighborhoods were expected to undergo near-daily testing for the virus.
“The protesters are definitely at risk of prosecution,” Han Yang, an Australia-based political commentator and former Chinese diplomat, told Newsweek. “Order and stability are the foremost consideration for Chinese leaders, and no protest will be tolerated for fear of it spreading out.”
House Committees Slam ID.me for ‘Baseless’ Unemployment Fraud Claims
ID.me, the controversial biometric identification verification company whose facial match technology provoked a major privacy backlash at the IRS earlier this year, may have misled the public and lawmakers when its CEO claimed the U.S. lost $400 billion to fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims.
Its biometric services, billed as a convenient and secure way to reduce pandemic related unemployment fraud, may have actually made it more difficult for those most in need of assistance to receive their aid.
That new evidence, shared with Gizmodo by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, alleges ID.me made “baseless claims,” of rampant COVID-19 unemployment fraud, “in an apparent attempt to increase demand for its identity verification services.”
Additionally, the committees allege ID.me’s verification process, which was used by 21 different state governments to dole out unemployment benefits, contributed to “extraordinary wait times,” for certain users trying to verify their identities. In some cases, users without access to devices required to take face scans had to wait up to ten hours to have the company verify their identity over a video call.
Elon Musk Purges Thousands More Twitter Employees — No One Notices the Difference
A good measure of the value of an employee to a company is if his or her absence makes things more difficult for everyone else, or his or her absence is barely noticed. If an employee makes no difference and adds no value then there is no point in keeping him or her around.
Twitter is quickly becoming a blaring example of this issue. Alleged leaks from within the company suggest that most employees under previous management barely worked and are devout “communists” with a hatred of free speech. The leaks also claim that Twitter employees were far more concerned with censoring conservative voices than doing their jobs. From comments made on social media by employees since Elon Musk‘s takeover, it appears that these rumors are correct.
For many years now Twitter has operated less like a company and more like a cult compound for leftist ideologues, with free lunches, yoga rooms, smoothie bars, wine bars, expresso bars and minimal work buffered by pointless meetings and near-zero productivity. The company runs a collectivist daycare for overgrown children; 7,500 of them along with 5,500 outside contractors.
Musk fired at least 3,500 primary staff members and it is also recently reported that he has purged at least 4,500 outside contractors, many of them moderators tasked with filtering “misinformation.” Interestingly, Twitter users have not noticed much of a difference in terms of functionality for the platform despite the mass layoffs. The only difference has been the ability to speak more freely.