While the White House tries to reassure Americans that the newly proposed Disinformation Governance Board is really not something out of George Orwell’s “1984,” we’ve been provided proof that the government was doing something out of Orwell’s dystopian novel.

Biden Admin Bought Location Data From Millions Of Cellphones, Tracking Americans’ Movements During Pandemic

While the White House tries to reassure Americans that the newly proposed Disinformation Governance Board is really not something out of George Orwell’s “1984,” we’ve been provided proof that the government was doing something out of Orwell’s dystopian novel.

The tech-news website Motherboard reported on Tuesday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bought cellphone data on millions of Americans in order to track their movements during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Specifically, the government bought location data. Motherboard explained in a piece posted Tuesday, “is information on a device’s location sourced from the phone, which can then show where a person lives, works, and where they went.”

The CDC bought “aggregated” data, which means it was designed to follow trends in the movements of groups of people. But the data can also be “deanonymized,” meaning it can be used to track specific individuals.

Documents obtained by Motherboard “reveal the expansive plan the CDC had last year” – as when President Joe Biden was in office – “to use location data from a highly controversial data broker,” a company called SafeGraph. The CDC paid $420,000 for access to a year’s worth of data.

“The CDC used the data for monitoring curfews, with the documents saying that SafeGraph’s data ‘has been critical for ongoing response efforts, such as hourly monitoring of activity in curfew zones or detailed counts of visits to participating pharmacies for vaccine monitoring.’ The documents date from 2021” – as when Joe Biden was president.

Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity expert, told Motherboard, “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.’”

The government, according to Motherboard, used the data to track people for 21 different purposes. Among them: visiting K-12 schools; closures of bars and restaurants; monitoring newcomers for “adherence” to state-level restrictions if they moved between states; tracking the movement of the Navajo nation; watching activity for “mass gatherings” such as churches, public transit and games; and surveilling visits to pharmacies, parks, and gyms.

But the website also pointed out the CDC distilled the information, the acquisition of which was considered an “urgent” priority, for “non-COVID-19 purposes.”

“The documents also show that although the CDC used COVID-19 as a reason to buy access to the data more quickly, it intended to use it for more-general CDC purposes,” Motherboard reported.

“CDC also plans to use mobility data and services acquired through this acquisition to support non-COVID-19 programmatic areas and public health priorities across the agency, including but not limited to travel to parks and green spaces, physical activity and mode of travel, and population migration before, during, and after natural disasters,” the documents obtained by Motherboard said.

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

Motherboard reported that SafeGraph made its data available to nonprofits or government agencies for free at the beginning of the pandemic. Still, the Biden administration bought it in the spring of 2021 because the company was about to withdraw that offer.

“CDC has interest in continued access to this mobility data as the country opens back up. This data is used by several teams/groups in the response and have been resulting in deeper insights into the pandemic as it pertains to human behavior,” the agency explained in the documents obtained by Motherboard.

Edwards, the cybersecurity expert, told Motherboard, “In my opinion the SafeGraph data is way beyond any safe thresholds [around anonymity].” He noted how the data was able to pinpoint visits to a particular albeit unidentified doctor’s office.

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