Report: CDC purchased cell phone data from “highly controversial broker” to monitor lockdowns and compliance

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ATLANTA, GA – According to documents from 2021 obtained by a FOIA request from Vice’s Motherboard, the CDC purchased location data gleaned from millions of cell phones to track movement of persons, in order to monitor compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

Vice reports that the CDC paid $420,000 for access to data from SafeGraph, a “highly controversial data broker.”  In fact, in the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, SafeGraph actually provided data to the CDC for free.

SafeGraph was banned from Google’s Play Store in June of 2021 due to “privacy concerns.”  Its investors include tech billionaire Peter Thiel and former Saudi intelligence chief Turki bin Faisal Al Saud.

The cell phone data was to be used for:

“analysis of compliance with curfews, track patterns of people visiting K-12 schools, and specifically monitor the effectiveness of policy in the Navajo Nation.”

Vice also notes that, in addition to COVID regulation compliance, the CDC “intended to use [the data] for more-general CDC purposes.”

The cell phone data did not pinpoint the movements of individuals, as it was aggregated, but it has still “raised concerns” over the possibility of tracking particular persons, which is well within reach.

For example, according to the New York Post, a Catholic priest from Wisconsin was tracked, using de-anonymized cellphone data, to gay bars and the use of Grindr.

Vice reports that the CDC documents noted that the accumulated data:

“has been 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.”

Cybersecurity researcher Zach Edwards told Vice in an online chat:

“The CDC seems to have purposefully created an open-ended list of use cases, which included monitoring curfews, neighbor-to-neighbor visits, visits to churches, schools and pharmacies, and also a variety of analysis with this data specifically focused on ‘violence.’” 

Vice added: 

“(The document doesn’t stop at churches; it mentions ‘places of worship.’)”

In the documents are listed 21 “potential CDC uses for data.”  Some of these items appear to intrude on the movements of individuals, even though the data is supposedly aggregated and anonymous.

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Those items include:

  “Impact of state limitations on close person-to-person contacts outside the household: comparing gathering density in 2019 and 2020”

  “Examination of volume of mobile phones grouped in proximity each month and compare to 2019 to 2020 data to see the impact of these orders.  Project how much worse things would have been without the bans.”

  “Track patterns of those visiting K-12 schools by the school and compare to 2019.”

  “Monitoring adherence to state-level policies to quarantine after arrival from another state.”

  “Examination of the effectiveness of public policy on the Navajo nation.”

  “Examination of mobility data for tracking school closures such as school bus routes and cell phone data around institutes of higher education around events like spring break.”

  “Assess movement in and out of counties during periods of natural disasters to assist with planning and distribution of COVID resources to evacuation areas.”

  “Research points of interest for physical activity and chronic disease prevention such as visits to parks, gyms, or weight management businesses.”

  “Exposure to certain building types, urban areas, and violence.”

Elsewhere in the CDC documents is confirmation that the CDC did not plan to limit the use of the cell phone data to COVID-related tracking.

The documents note:

“CDC also plans to use mobility data and services acquired through this acquisition to support non-COVID-19 programmatic areas and public health priorities across the agency, including but not limited to travel to parks and green spaces, physical activity and mode of travel, and population migration before, during, and after natural disasters.”

The CDC continued:

“The mobility data obtained under this contract will be available for CDC agency-wide use and will support numerous CDC priorities.”

Safegraph did not respond to requests for comment from Vice.

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Report: Teachers’ unions donated significantly to Democrats in exchange for “unprecedented access” to CDC decisions on school reopenings

Originally published March 31, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC- Just remember…it’s “following the science”…and apparently the money.

According to Republican lawmakers in a newly released report, GOP members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis tell us that teachers unions had “unprecedented access” in determining how COVID-19 guidelines were applied to schools, this coming after the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) donated millions of dollars to Democratic politicians in 2020, according to The Center Square.

The latest revelation should come as no surprise, since it was reported last year that teachers unions such as the AFT gave tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations to Democrats, which appears to have played a significant role in how “the science” was applied to reopening schools shuttered due to the virus.

“Teachers’ unions, including the AFT, donated more than $43 million to liberal groups and candidates during the 2020 election cycle,” the report read.

“The two largest unions—which both endorsed then-candidate Biden for president—have approximately 4.7 million members. [CDC Scientist] Dr. [Henry] Walke’s testimony to the Select Subcommittee shows the Biden administration rewarded their support with unprecedented access to the policymaking process for guidance on re-opening schools.”

Continuing, the report read:

“The Operational Strategy that was developed jointly by the CDC and AFT reflects the fact that the Biden Administration prioritized its political allies over the health and welfare of school-aged children,” it said.

“Director [Rochelle] Walensky downplayed the degree to which the CDC gave AFT access to the policymaking process. In fact, the CDC shared a draft with the AFT at least two weeks before finalizing the document and solicited the union’s feedback.”

Last year, AFT President Randi Weingarten defended the union’s collaboration with the CDC, complaining that she has an “obligation” to advocate for teachers.

The reopening of schools across the country, in primarily Democratic-run cities and/or states was delayed due mostly to pushback from teachers’ unions, which delayed for school reopening’s while calling for stringent (and costly) vaccination, masking, and infrastructure requirements. In some cases, they demanded the complete upgrading of ventilation systems in school facilities, which would have been a costly exercise.

By browbeating politicians not to open schools, the actions had the “unintended” consequences of students falling behind academically, while many developed mental health issues, the report alleges.

“Research also shows that school closures affected students in other ways,” the report continued.

“According to McKinsey, parents whose children have fallen significantly behind academically are one-third more likely to say they are ‘very or extremely concerned’ about their children’s mental health. Black and Hispanic parents are seven to nine percentage points more likely than white parents to report higher levels of concern.”

But remember, Democrats are the party that “cares about children,” or so they say.

The new report follows on the heels of a recent development where the CDC removed some 24% of pediatric COVID-19 deaths it had initially recorded, referring to it as an “error.”

That caused the CDC to come under intense fire primarily by conservatives, who had long thought the CDC had inflated at least some of the COVID numbers. Those inflated totals were used as a basis to justify draconian school masking and shutdown policies across the country.

“The effects of the Biden Administration’s politicization of the CDC have been felt most acutely by students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, including those attending majority-black or low-income schools, according to a July 2021 report by McKinsey and Co.,” the report said.

“At the end of the 2020-21 school year, most students were about for to five months behind in math and reading levels.”

In light of the recent report, Republicans are now calling for an investigation of the CDC and the Biden administration.

“Because lawyers for the Biden Administration prevented a key witness from explaining why the CDC allowed AFT to write key portions of its guidance for re-opening schools, there are still several unanswered questions,” the report said.

“This matter should be investigated further. America’s children are suffering, academically and mentally, because of the choices of liberal local and state officials. Republicans will not rest until we have rectified the harms perpetrated against children in America.”

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For our report from last year about teacher’s unions and the CDC working in concert with one another, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

WASHINGTON, DC- “Follow the science!” we’re told. That is why in many areas of the country, school-age children are still being forced to learn from home, away from friends and from the social environment that being with their peers allows.

The only problem is, the science says that children should be back in school, doing in-person learning.

Now, we are finding out why schools remained closed earlier this year, and science had absolutely nothing to do with it.

According to The Blaze, newly uncovered emails provided to the New York Post show that one of the two most powerful teachers unions in the country, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) successfully lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from recommending earlier this year that schools reopen for in-person learning, so teachers could actually do what they’re being paid to do.

Of course, as one of the major donors to Democratic Party candidates, having donated some $20 million to Democrats in 2020, there is also the issue of hapless Biden-appointed CDC Director Rochelle Walensky insisting the guidance issued by that agency was “free from political meddling.”

To quote old Slick Willy Clinton, we suppose it depends on “what your definition of” political meddling is.

While some schools in the country, in red states such as Florida and others have largely remained open for the past year, the nation’s largest school districts, in particular New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have resisted efforts to return to in-person learning, backed by the AFT as well as the largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA).

According to the New York Post, there was a “flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors and union officials—with Biden brass being looped in at the White House—in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.”

One email, dated Feb 1 referred to the AFT as a CDC “thought partner” was sent from AFT’s senior director for health issues, Kelly Trautner. She wrote:

“Thank you for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT.

“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document.

“…we believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”

Subsequently, in another email sent two days later, Trautner thanked Walensky for her “committment (sic) to partnership” and Walensky’s “genuine desire to earn our confidence.” Four days later, Feb. 7, emails seemed to indicate that a phone conversation had also taken place between Walensky and Weingarten.

So the “lack of political meddling” apparently paid off when the CDC released its guidance on Feb. 12 for in-person learning in schools, which included suggestions from the AFT almost verbatim, The Blaze reported.

From the Post:

With the CDC preparing to write that schools could provide in-person instruction regardless of community spread of the virus, Trautner argued for the inclusion of a line reading “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.” That language appeared on page 22 of the final CDC guidance.

The AFT also demanded special remote work concessions for teachers “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for…COVID-19,” and that similar arrangements should extend to “staff who have a household member” with similar risks. A lengthy provision for that made it into the text of the final guidance.

Despite Walensky’s claim of no “political meddling,” the CDC as well as the AFT defended their collusion on the final guidance.

“As part of long-standing best practices, CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency.

We do so to ensure our recommendations are feasible to implement and they adequately address the safety and wellbeing of individuals the guidance is aimed to protect.

These informative and helpful interactions often result in beneficial feedback that we consider in our final revisions to ensure clarity and usability,” a spokesman for Walensky said.

Meantime, a spokesman for AFT, Oriana Korin told the Post the AFT also worked with the Trump administration. This folks is called deflection.

“The AFT represents 1.7 million educators, healthcare professionals and public employees who spent the last 14 months serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So naturally, we have been in regular touch with the agencies setting policy that affect their work and lives, including the CDC,” Korin said.

“Front lines?” Their definition of “front lines” has as much credibility as Walensky’s definition of “political meddling.” None.

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