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‘Raises Serious Constitutional Issues’: Johnson Investigating CDC Phone Tracking.

The Senator From Wisconsin Wants to Know What the CDC is Doing With Our Data.


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Last week The Drill Down reported that the CDC paid data broker Safegraph $420,000 for access to one year’s worth of Americans’ phone tracking information; Walensky & Co. wanted the data to perform an analysis of COVID curfew compliance.

“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,” Vice reports. “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… general purposes.”

This set off all kinds of red flags for Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).

“Just because data exists, doesn’t mean that the government should be using it to track Americans, I would think that that really raises some very serious constitutional issues,” Johnson says.

“It remains unclear why the CDC tracked millions of Americans during the pandemic and whether it continues to do so. In response to COVID-19, the CDC should have been prioritizing the development of treatments, effective testing, and vaccine safety rather than tracking Americans’ daily lives,” Johnson writes in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walenksy.

Johnson has asked Walensky to answer the following questions:

  1. Was CDC’s use of location data the only mechanism it employed to monitor Americans during the pandemic?

  2. Who at CDC approved the use and subsequent purchase of location data?

  3. What companies supply CDC with location data? For each company indicate the year(s) in which the data was provided to CDC and the cost of that data.

  4. Provide all records referring or relating to location data provide by SafeGraph or other companies.

  5. Provide all CDC studies or reports that relied on the location data CDC received from companies including but not limited to SafeGraph.

  6. Did CDC share location data with other federal, state, and local agencies?  If so, provide what entities received the data and explain why.

Despite inquiring about the data, Johnson isn’t expecting to get any answers. According to Just The News, the Senator has “sent out dozens of oversight letters to federal agencies to ask about their COVID response, but has gotten ‘very few answers.’”

“Congressional oversight has been dramatically weakened, mainly because we have no enforcement mechanism,” Johnson says.