How the CDC bought your data to enforce lockdown: Health agency paid firm $420,000 to track tens of millions of cell phones and see who went to schools and churches in the pandemic

The CDC paid $420,000 for a year of access to the cell phone location data from the data brokerage SafeGraph, to track compliance with COVID-19 lockdown measures

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid for location data harvested from millions of cell phones to track compliance with COVID-19 lockdown measures, according to a new report.

The CDC paid $420,000 for a year of access to the cell phone location data from the data brokerage SafeGraph, according to documents reported by Vice News on Tuesday.

The data was aggregated, meaning that it was intended to show general trends rather than the movements of specific phones, however the move still set off alarm bells with some privacy advocates.

The CDC and SafeGraph did not respond to messages from seeking comment on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Vice, the documents show that the CDC planned to use the data to analyze compliance with curfews, track patterns of people visiting K-12 schools, and specifically monitor the effectiveness of policy in the Navajo Nation.

The CDC documents describe SafeGraph’s data as ‘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.’

Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher who closely follows the data marketplace, told Vice that it appears the CDC had broader ambitions for the location data, beyond tracking the pandemic response.

‘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,’ he told the outlet.

In the early days of the pandemic, SafeGraph made some of its aggregate data and analysis available publicly to help inform the policy response to the pandemic.

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SOURCE: Daily Mail