CDC Tracked Location Data Of 10 Million Plus Americans: Report

The CDC paid a controversial data broker $420,000 for access to Americans’ location data.(Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Has American trust in three-letter agencies come to its official end? New documents obtained by Vice via a Freedom of Information Act request appear to reveal that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered location data from tens of millions of Americans’ cell phones in order to track compliance with Covid-19 lockdown policies.

Included in the location data that the CDC bought access to were tracked patterns of people attending K-12 schools, pharmacies, churches, and what a cybersecurity researcher reportedly identified as “monitoring curfews.”

“The CDC seems to have purposefully created an open-ended list of use cases, which included monitoring curfews, neighbor-to-neighbor visits, visits to churches, schools and pharmacies, and also a variety of analysis with this data specifically focused on ‘violence,’” cybersecurity researcher Zach Edwards told Vice.

People representing the CDC wrote that one use of cellphone data would be to “research points of interest for physical activity and chronic disease prevention such as visits to parks, gyms, or weight management businesses.”

Another listed purpose included tracking “population migration before, during, and after natural disasters.”

“The mobility data obtained under this contract will be available for CDC agency-wide use and will support numerous CDC priorities,” the agency wrote.

“We’ve been public about the CDC’s use of our data since 2020, so there is not much new news here,” SafeGraph spokesperson Evan Barry told The New York Post. It was also reported that SafeGraph had previously been banned from the Google Play Store over privacy concerns, a claim the company denied upon questioning.

“SafeGraph made their social mobility data available free-of-charge to governmental and non-governmental agencies at the beginning of the pandemic for a period of approximately one year,” CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed said. “In April of 2021, CDC awarded a contract to SafeGraph to purchase mobility data for an additional year, through April 2022.”

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