Documents obtained by Vice News' Motherboard reveal that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purchased access to the phone data of millions of Americans, and not just for COVID-19 tracking.
The CDC reportedly paid "highly controversial data broker" SafeGraph $420,000 last year for access to one year worth of cell phone location data. The documents "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," writes Vice.
SafeGraph's data allows insight into where people live, work, and where they go.
The CDC's initial pandemic tracking usage was "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," according to the documents.
But the documents also reveal 21 other ways the CDC planned to utilize the data, including "tracking patterns of those visiting K-12 schools by the school" and "examination of the effectiveness of public policy on [the] Navajo Nation."
While the data purchase was initially marked "URGENT" amid the pandemic, the agreement between the CDC and SafeGraph has been extended as the CDC argues it "has interest in continued access to this mobility data as the country opens back up." Read more at Vice News.