Android phone users in the US have accused Google of installing a COVID tracking app automatically without user consent. People reported that the ‘MassNotify’ app appeared on their phones mysteriously without them opting into the feature.
The app tracks people’s movements and issues notification alerts if possible exposure to COVID-19 happens.
Writing in the review section of the Google Play app store, one user noted that the app “Automatically installed without consent. It has no icon, no way to open this and see what it even does, which is a huge red flag… I think it’s spyware, phishing as the DPH (Department of Public Health).”
Another wrote, “Force-installed with no authorization or approval. App is hidden on the device to prevent uninstallation. Government overreach and corporate complicity should never be tolerated.”
Other person described the app as an “unethical breach of privacy and a forceful misappropriation of personal property,” adding, “The degree to which my data is collected or distributed through it has not been disclosed neither in active nor inactive form… I can only conclude and caution others that it is disclosing your whereabouts and social contacts without permission.”
Google issued a statement to 9to5Google, which does not addressing the claims that the app stealth installed on phones.
The statement reads:
We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings. This functionality is built into the device settings and is automatically distributed by the Google Play Store, so users don’t have to download a separate app. COVID-19 Exposure Notifications are enabled only if a user proactively turns it on. Users decide whether to enable this functionality and whether to share information through the system to help warn others of possible exposure.
Source: Summit News