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Tue May 3, 2022, 11:53 AM

CDC Tracked Millions of Phones to See If Americans Followed COVID Lockdown Orders

Source: Vice

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bought access to location data harvested from tens of millions of phones in the United States to perform analysis of compliance with curfews, track patterns of people visiting K-12 schools, and specifically monitor the effectiveness of policy in the Navajo Nation, according to CDC documents obtained by Motherboard. 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.

Location data 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 sort of data the CDC bought was aggregated—meaning it was designed to follow trends that emerge from the movements of groups of people—but researchers have repeatedly raised concerns with how location data can be deanonymized and used to track specific people.

The documents reveal the expansive plan the CDC had last year to use location data from a highly controversial data broker. SafeGraph, the company the CDC paid $420,000 for access to one year of data to, includes Peter Thiel and the former head of Saudi intelligence among its investors. Google banned the company from the Play Store in June.

Read more: https://www.vice.com/en/article/m7vymn/cdc-tracked-phones-location-data-curfews

45 replies, 2469 views

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Arrow 45 replies Author Time Post
Reply CDC Tracked Millions of Phones to See If Americans Followed COVID Lockdown Orders (Original post)
TheProle May 2022 OP
hueymahl May 2022 #1
NullTuples May 2022 #32
hueymahl May 2022 #33
NullTuples May 2022 #36
hueymahl May 2022 #42
NullTuples May 2022 #45
durablend May 2022 #2
groundloop May 2022 #6
OneCrazyDiamond May 2022 #3
oldsoftie May 2022 #4
asiliveandbreathe May 2022 #7
sarisataka May 2022 #13
oldsoftie May 2022 #15
sarisataka May 2022 #16
pnwmom May 2022 #18
hueymahl May 2022 #34
NH Ethylene May 2022 #30
oldsoftie May 2022 #31
asiliveandbreathe May 2022 #8
TheProle May 2022 #9
OneCrazyDiamond May 2022 #20
TheProle May 2022 #22
OneCrazyDiamond May 2022 #24
TheProle May 2022 #25
asiliveandbreathe May 2022 #5
CountAllVotes May 2022 #10
IronLionZion May 2022 #11
TheProle May 2022 #12
IronLionZion May 2022 #14
HighFired49 May 2022 #17
IronLionZion May 2022 #21
TheProle May 2022 #26
pnwmom May 2022 #19
hamsterjill May 2022 #23
wishstar May 2022 #27
hamsterjill May 2022 #28
stopdiggin May 2022 #41
twodogsbarking May 2022 #29
brooklynite May 2022 #35
Martin68 May 2022 #37
stopdiggin May 2022 #40
Igel May 2022 #38
stopdiggin May 2022 #39
marie999 May 2022 #43
Sgent May 2022 #44

Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:00 PM

1. Feels a little creepy to have the CDC do that

Or any government agency for that matter, but it is publicly available information available from a private vendor.

We need better privacy laws.

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Response to hueymahl (Reply #1)

Tue May 3, 2022, 07:16 PM

32. Roe v Wade was based on the assumption of a pregnant person's right to privacy

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Response to NullTuples (Reply #32)

Tue May 3, 2022, 07:41 PM

33. You are stating facts

True facts. But they have nothing to do with this post. Why?

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Response to hueymahl (Reply #33)

Tue May 3, 2022, 08:18 PM

36. Our highest court has thrown out the most basic right to privacy, bodily autonomy

Why would they care about the CDC, cell companies and data that can be triangulated to specific individuals?

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Response to NullTuples (Reply #36)

Wed May 4, 2022, 03:55 AM

42. They court wouldn't care about this privacy issue

I would advocate for a privacy law. Not trying to compare the two.

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Response to hueymahl (Reply #42)

Wed May 4, 2022, 03:28 PM

45. I don't disagree with you.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:05 PM

2. That should help rebuild trust for the agency!

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Response to durablend (Reply #2)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:16 PM

6. Yeah, that was kind of a questionable thing to do.

I can certainly see why the CDC would want to know to what extent Americans were following social distancing guidelines, but this sure throws a bad light on the agency.

In my most humble opinion they have made quite a few PR missteps recently. I somewhat wonder if CDC Director Welensky is in over her head.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:09 PM

3. Oh Nooo!

The CDC trying to track the pandemic using tools available.

If this was the Slob Father I would be more concerned, but President Biden has governed from a place of caring, not hate.

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Response to OneCrazyDiamond (Reply #3)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:12 PM

4. Doesnt matter how "good" it seems, the CDC has no right to track me or you.

Not without permission. I don't care who the President is. THATS what has gotten us into the crap we're in; the other side thinking anything goes as long as THEIR guy ends up on top.
NO

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #4)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:16 PM

7. Seriously..you buyin' into this shit??? If I can't feel it, I can't smell it, I can't see it,

I can't touch it..what has gotten us into this shit, is buyin' into the propaganda..

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #4)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:37 PM

13. I am willing to bet you gave them permission

When you purchased your cell phone did you read all of the terms, conditions, privacy notices and "how we may use data we collect"?

Such things are often spread across multiple documents that you may only have been given links to read on your own. Simply opening the packaging is considered acceptance of all of their terms, unless you complete all of the opt-out forms, found on links within the other links or on the company's website- somewhere.

I am amused by people who turn down auto insurance discounts because they don't want a company to track them. However they are willingly carrying the greatest tracker ever invented and pay for the privilege to do so.

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Response to sarisataka (Reply #13)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:44 PM

15. The government is supposed to follow a different set of rules. Like censorship.

DU can stop you from speaking on their site but the government is not supposed to. Apple can follow me but the govt isn't supposed to

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #15)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:50 PM

16. The government cannot use it

To track you specifically (witout a warrant) but if the phone company sells the location information to a third party who then sells a portion to the government at that point it is data.

Should there be more restrictions? Sure, it should really be an opt-in system but there is more profit in relying on consumer apathy.

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #4)

Tue May 3, 2022, 01:12 PM

18. All kinds of places track your phones if you don't fix your settings. The CDC has the same

right as anyone else.

Fix your settings.

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Response to pnwmom (Reply #18)

Tue May 3, 2022, 07:43 PM

34. Eh, no settings will protect that kind of tracking

They are probably using cell tower data, which should NOT be publicly available, but is. We need laws to restrict use of that data.

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #4)

Tue May 3, 2022, 05:34 PM

30. You're absolutely right!

Big Brother activities are not okay no matter who the president is. Whatever we let happen under an administration that we like is also giving free rein to one that we don't like in the future.

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Response to NH Ethylene (Reply #30)

Tue May 3, 2022, 06:03 PM

31. Exactly. But apparently a lot of folks here think its normal.

I don't. And no, the govt doesnt have the same "rights" as we do

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Response to OneCrazyDiamond (Reply #3)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:17 PM

8. Here, here..loud and proud..++++++10000

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Response to OneCrazyDiamond (Reply #3)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:19 PM

9. I don't know that it's wise

to tie one's principles to a 4 or 8 year rotation of politicians.

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Response to TheProle (Reply #9)

Tue May 3, 2022, 01:33 PM

20. The CDC bought the information from Private companies. n/t

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Response to OneCrazyDiamond (Reply #20)

Tue May 3, 2022, 02:25 PM

22. I understand that

You are the one who suggested it was a-okay since Biden and not Trump is in the White House.



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Response to TheProle (Reply #22)

Tue May 3, 2022, 02:42 PM

24. Kinda.

I said it was A-O-K because:

The CDC trying to track the pandemic using tools available.

Then followed up with where I personally would be more concerned. Everyone should be concerned about him though.

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Response to OneCrazyDiamond (Reply #24)

Tue May 3, 2022, 02:45 PM

25. You're right that everything is worse with Trump involved

Thanks for the clarification.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:13 PM

5. More BS..there.. I am pissed..like everyone else here, well, almost everyone..

I am so sick of the propaganda..yep..propaganda BS...Russia..are you listening..hack article..of course..

GOTV..we deserve who we vote for...GOTV...

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:20 PM

10. Particularly the Navajo Nation!

!!!!!

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:29 PM

11. Qonspiracy nuts need to take a sledgehammer to their phones



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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #11)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:35 PM

12. And maybe women seeking healthcare?

Should they also "take a sledgehammer to their phones"?

https://www.democraticunderground.com/10142911412

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Response to TheProle (Reply #12)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:40 PM

14. If they overturn Roe v Wade

then they might want to avoid being tracked through their phones when they go to underground clinics

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #14)

Tue May 3, 2022, 12:50 PM

17. and take a bus,

have a friend drive you, etc., but don't take your own car. Don't use Uber or any other individual driving service, because they can all be tracked, also. We now live in the United States of Surveillance.

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Response to HighFired49 (Reply #17)

Tue May 3, 2022, 01:33 PM

21. Many of the Jan 6 terrorists were caught through their phones

Even for other crimes. They caught some stupid kids spray painting swastikas on their own school through their phones connecting to the wifi network and pinging nearby cell towers at night.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #21)

Tue May 3, 2022, 02:47 PM

26. Shooting everyone in a given city in the back of the neck

would invariably reduce the number of criminals in that city.

Ends don't necessarily justify any means.



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Response to TheProle (Reply #12)

Tue May 3, 2022, 01:13 PM

19. Everyone should fix their settings. n/t

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 02:41 PM

23. Okay, I didn't get much sleep last night and I must be dense today.

I don’t see anything in this article that specifically gives the dates the tracking was done. They have very carefully couched it as “the documents were signed in April, 2021”, but that doesn’t absolutely mean that is when the tracking started.

Can smarter minds than me find the dates within the article when the tracking was actually done? Was it Biden or was it Trump?

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Response to hamsterjill (Reply #23)

Tue May 3, 2022, 03:01 PM

27. My reading indicates CDC began data contract in March 2020 and renewed in March 2021

Article says CDC issued a report in 2020 based on data they had reviewed. The company they were using had Peter Thiel and head of Saudi intelligence as 2 of their investors. Article indicates data was provided at no cost for one year beginning March 2020 until contract ran out a year later in March 31 2021 at which point CDC purchased new contract for $420,000.

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Response to wishstar (Reply #27)

Tue May 3, 2022, 03:04 PM

28. Thank you.

So Trump tossing money to his Saudi friends. Probably Jared’s idea.

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Response to hamsterjill (Reply #28)

Wed May 4, 2022, 12:11 AM

41. the post plainly states that the contract

was cost free until well into the Biden administration.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 04:02 PM

29. Big Brother but with the twist that people pay to be watched.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 08:11 PM

35. A friend of mine moved to Korea in the early days of COVID...

They put an app on his phone when he was in isolation. If the phone indicated that he left the isolation hotel, the authorities would be notified. If the phone indicated that he didn't move, the authorities would be notified and assume he had left the phone behind.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 08:39 PM

37. Look. If the CDC used the data to track movement, compliance, and establish trends rather than

prosecute individuals, it is entirely within the best interests of the public health and no danger to individuals. We had (have?) a public health emergency and extreme measures are called for in light of conservative pushback against any measures to reduce the spread of a dangerous contagion.

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Response to Martin68 (Reply #37)

Wed May 4, 2022, 12:07 AM

40. And I really can't even label this 'extreme measures'

This is simply just data crunching - and for purposes much more beneficial and altruistic than the vast majority of the same.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Tue May 3, 2022, 09:06 PM

38. Short-term memories. This shouldn't be a surprise.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/03/25/coronavirus-social-distancing-smartphone-data/5078106002/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34026940/

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/23/cellphone-data-social-distancing-coronavirus

It's not CDC, but I'm not sure why the CDC's use of public data is any worse than a foreign organization's or a domestic research group's.

It's not like the research stopped in summer 2020, either.

Do I like that such data are so easily available? No. But if it's "out there" then it's out there for anybody to use, whether we trust them or not.

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Wed May 4, 2022, 12:03 AM

39. seems pretty plain that a lot of posts here really don't understand

either what was being done here - or the reason and intent behind it. This was not an NSA operation, or really anything approaching that.
The sort of data the CDC bought was aggregated—meaning it was designed to follow trends that emerge from the movements of groups of people ..

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Response to TheProle (Original post)

Wed May 4, 2022, 08:07 AM

43. Does the CDC have the names of individuals, or their cell phone numbers?

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Response to marie999 (Reply #43)

Wed May 4, 2022, 09:40 AM

44. Neither

its aggregate data using pseudoanonymous identifiers.

They are probably using it to see which lockdown items actually worked.

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