L.A. County first responders cannot stop personal information release to China-linked Fulgent Genetics

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Editor note: Law Enforcement Today has received countless emails from members of ALADS (Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs) thanking us for originally breaking the story, and letting us know they plan on leaving ALADS.  They’ve told us that they feel “betrayed” and “sold out” by the very people who were supposed to be fighting on their behalf.

We’ve continued our coverage of this travesty, despite defamatory and slanderous comments by the leadership at ALADS – and our coverage was vindicated with the announcement by the FBI.  

We have several other stories that will be coming out on the topic, and we will also update you if the leadership of ALADS, now that they’ve been exposed, announces that they’ll step down in disgrace.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to fight for the officers that feel abandoned.  Read on…

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles County first responders are learning that demanding the removal of their personal identifiable information from Fulgent Genetics, a Chinese-linked genetics testing company, is effectively impossible.

Law Enforcement Today (LET) has also learned that all Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) employees, and presumably all first responders in the County, have had their personal data uploaded to the Fulgent Genetics database on a daily basis, even if the employee did not give consent for the data release.

L.A. County is mandating that first responders register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, an international technology company with ties to China, with the required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

While Fulgent Genetics is based in the United States, the company has joint ventures with entities operating in China, exposing its databases to China’s cybersecurity laws including potential data seizure.

On September 1, China created a new Data Security Law (DSL), which outlines how corporations that collect data and have operations in mainland China will be subject to DSL. The new laws forbid transferring data out of China without specific governmental approval.

The law also grants extraterritorial authority for the government to take action against any company, foreign or domestic, which does not provide access to data collected. Clarice Yue, Bird & Bird counsel, wrote:

“(DSL) could potentially place MNCs (multi-national corporations) in an awkward position: compliance with a foreign authority’s data access request will lead to a violation of the PRC law while non-compliance of data request will result in a violation of the relevant foreign laws or court orders.”

Several L.A. County first responders have spoken out against the County mandate, concerned that their personal identifiable information (PII) and genetic information may be exposed to China and other foreign nations.

Protection for the Educational Rights of Kids (PERK), an organization assisting first responders to fight the mandate; has instructed first responders who do not want their PII retained in Fulgent Genetics’ database to submit revocation letters.

The letter, in part, states:

“I have not been sufficiently provided the appropriate or adequate option to opt out and revoke authorization. I have a right to privacy as stated in Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution. You cannot, therefore, require that I disclose anything outside what a normal person should know. I also do not have to give up rights in exchange for other rights…

“I am explicitly protected by the Genetic Information Privacy Act. As stated in California law, I have ‘the right to control the use of my genetic information that I give to you.’

Under no circumstances, does the law state my employment or ‘persons’ may control the genetic information I give, unless I authorize it. The law clearly states that if I do consent, I may revoke that authorization at any time. I revoke any previous authorization.”

Revocation letter provided by PERK - Screenshot courtesy PERK
Revocation letter provided by PERK – Screenshot courtesy PERK

Although federal and California law protects an individual’s PII, including the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act11 which prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in employment, first responders are learning that submitting such letters are not being successful in removing their information.

LASD and Los Angeles Police Department personnel have reached out to LET concerned about the security of their PII.  A member of  LASD provided documents showing that a revocation letter sent to the County Human Resources Department and Fulgent Genetics was ineffective.

The letter informed the member that keeping his PII out of the database was not possible because the County re-uploads all data to Fulgent daily.

Eddie Catch, Fulgent Genetics’ Project Manager, responded to the deputy’s revocation request in an email:

“I’m reaching out in reference to an email you sent to [email protected] about removing your information from the LAC-Fulgent vaccination status tracking system.

While we can remove the current instance of your information from the platform, by County request this system was designed to receive daily imports of all active LAC employees and contractors such that inactive employees are not displayed to program administrators.

“Because of this functionality, even if your information was removed manually, it would be automatically imported again the following day as a result of your active employee status. This will occur every day that the LAC-Fulgent program is live.”

Fulgent response to revocation request (LASD source)
Fulgent response to revocation request (LASD source)

In other words, PII for L.A. County first responders is being uploaded to the Fulgent Genetics database every day, making removal of data by an employee useless.

The email continued:

“To prevent this, you will need to speak with your departmental human resources personnel (who might in turn need to extend a request to LAC ISD) to have your information removed from the County’s daily export file. Doing so will automatically remove all instances of your information from all Fulgent systems.”

L.A. County has already refused to exempt employees from participation in its database and information collection requirements. In a previous notice to first responders provided by a LASD source, the County threatened employees who did not comply.

In a notice provided to LET, L.A. County wrote to LASD personnel:

“All LASD employees shall immediately register with the Fulgent system, this is an order. Failure to register can result in further departmental action being taken.”

L.A. County warning to LASD staff (LASD source)
L.A. County warning to LASD staff (LASD source)

The same notice included a shocking admission by the County that their Human Resources Department had already released PII of all employees to Fulgent without the approval of said employees. The notice read:

“The County has already provided the data for all L.A. County employees to Fulgent; failing to register will not mask an individual’s identity.”

Notice of automatic personal information release by L.A. County (LASD source)
Notice of automatic personal information release by L.A. County (LASD source)

Just last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office advised county supervisors that the department will no longer participate in COVID-19 registering or testing with Fulgent Genetics, due to the fact that DNA data “will likely be shared with the Republic of China.”

LET has reached out to L.A. County and Fulgent Genetics for comment on the mandate. No response has been received. LET will continue to follow developments.

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LA County Sheriff pulls out from county’s mandated testing program after FBI warns cops DNA will be shared with China

November 30, 2021

 

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA – Following a shocking warning from the FBI confirming an exclusive report by Law Enforcement Today, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department advised county supervisors that the department will no longer participate in COVID-19 registering or testing with Fulgent Genetics, due to the fact that DNA data “will likely be shared with the Republic of China.”

Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)
Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Alex Villanueva wrote that the decision came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested a briefing with Los Angeles County leaders to share “very concerning information” about Fulgent Genetics.

Law Enforcement Today (LET) reported on October 18, 2021, about L.A. County mandating that first responders register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, an international technology company with ties to China, with the required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

Sheriff Villanueva wrote in the letter exclusively obtained by LET:

“On November 24, 2021, I was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator, who shared with me the FBI’s need to brief Los Angeles County leaders as to the ‘very concerning information’ they learned regarding the COVID-19 testing of County employees by Fulgent.”

Sheriff Villanueva said he attended the briefing on November 26, at the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, where he met with Los Angeles County Council Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva and Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport.

He said each county supervisor had been invited to the briefing, as was the head of the Department of Public Health.

The purpose of the meeting was for the FBI to inform County leaders of the “serious risk” associated with permitting Fulgent Genetics to conduct the Covid-19 testing of County employees, something county officials have mandated of all first responders.

Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)
Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)

The Sheriff wrote:

“I was shocked to learn Fulgent had strong ties with BGI, WuXi, and Huawei Technology, all of which are linked to the Chinese Academy of Medical Science, The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) State Council and are under the control of the PRC.

“I was even more shocked to learn Fulgent made no attempt to disguise the fact they will use genetic information obtained in future studies.

On the Fulgent public website, the following statement can easily be found, ‘I also give permission for my specimen and clinical information to be used in de-identified studies at Fulgent and for publication, if appropriate.’”

The letter also raised concerns over the 2017 China Cyber-Security Law, which makes it legal for PRC to seize any data stored in China or stored outside China by any organization with a location inside China.

Sheriff Villanueva mentioned a New York Times article published in October reporting on Chinese companies collecting genetic data from around the world so the PRC could develop the world’s largest bio-database.

In the letter, Sheriff Villanueva told the supervisors he was “deeply concerned” by the vetting failure on the part of the county:

“I am deeply concerned as to the vetting process which either failed to discover this, or discovered it, but chose to ignore it. A simple internet search would have uncovered all of the above facts.

On or about October 19, 2021, our department reached out to the County’s Department of Human Resources liaison of Fulgent, Mr. Ben Kempner, to ask him to respond to the questions in the (LET) news article, ‘L.A. first responders ordered to turn over personal and genetic data to China-linked company or face firing,’ but we were provided no response.

“I am equally concerned by the inclusion of an ‘equity survey’ to the mandatory Fulgent database registration process. How can one provide informed consent when participation is mandatory, under penalty of discipline?”

The article referred to in the letter was published by Law Enforcement Today on October 18 in an exclusive interview, reporting that L.A. County was mandating that employees register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, with a required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

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