Google started force-installing Massachusetts' COVID-tracker app on Android phones without user permission
· Jun 21, 2021 ·

Don't worry, dear citizen. Both Google and the state of Massachusetts are doing this for your own good:

Android users across the U.S. have been noticing that "MassNotify," the COVID-tracing app launched by the state on May 29 – you know, after 90% of the nation was back to life as usual – was being installed on their phones without their permission.

The app was quickly overwhelmed with negative reviews. Seems people don't like tech overlords and bureaucratic tyrants invading their privacy.

"Automatically installed without consent," said one user. "It has no icon, no way to open this and see what it even does, which is a huge red flag. Per the notifications it runs on Bluetooth which is a major battery drain, and seems to want to track my location. Major privacy violation if you ask me."

The force install even went around parental filters, putting it on kids' phones.

"This installed silently on my daughter's phone without consent or notification," said another user. "She cannot have installed it herself since we use Family Link and we have to approve all app installs. I have no idea how they pulled this off, but it had to involve either Google, or Samsung, or both."

Here were some more thoughts:

Google said in response that the app was installed in case users wanted to enable it:

"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."

See? Google is just being helpful by downloading software it wants to push on you. Nothing to see here at all!

The company has not explained why in the heck it thought it was okay to force-install software – especially from the government – in the first place. Since the app doesn't appear in the general Google Play Store, users also have to navigate to a specific URL to uninstall it.

In addition, Google hasn't answered why it was force-installing this app on phones that didn't even have the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications feature enabled.

Both Google and Apple have this as an option on their phones that users can toggle if they wish to b̶e̶ ̶t̶r̶a̶c̶k̶e̶d̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶ ̶t̶o̶t̶a̶l̶i̶t̶a̶r̶i̶a̶n̶ ̶r̶u̶l̶e̶r̶s̶ opt in to contact tracing programs.

Remember, it's all for your own good!

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