My column this week focuses on MTX, a “digital transformation services” company raking in hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds for contact tracing apps and virtual call centers to monitor American citizens. I interviewed Texas privacy activist Lynn Davenport about MTX’s $295 million contract earlier this week. You can watch here:
Look out. An “army of contact tracers” is about to be unleashed on America. Corporations, political lobbyists and government bureaucracies all win. Privacy, freedom and family autonomy all lose. Big time.
You may have already heard of the aptly named House Bill 6666, sponsored by Illinois Dem. Bobby Rush. Known as the Testing, Reaching and Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act, the legislation would allocate $100 billion in public funding to “eligible entities” to “conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.” The cash could be used to hunt down infected individuals, quarantine them in their homes for undefined periods under unknown conditions and subsidize a hiring spree of untold thousands of trackers from nonprofits, schools and medical facilities.
As for “other purposes,” the proposal does not define them — leaving Swamp public health bureaucrats and their pet grantees’ imaginations to run wild. What recourse or appeals process to citizens have when the “experts” get diagnoses and assessments wrong? Or when, say, homeschool families refuse to submit to intrusive phone call monitoring or forced quarantine? What are the opt-in or opt-out mechanisms? H.R. 6666 is silent on all these fundamental issues of autonomy and sovereignty. Feel safer yet?
This federally supported surveillance-state bonanza comes on top of the $631 million in Centers for Disease Control funding for contact tracing already in the pipeline after the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, plus another $75 billion in proposed contact-tracing spending embedded in the House Democrats’ supplemental stimulus bill known as the HEROES Act.
Who benefits? Let’s take one prominent entrant into the “digital transformation services” arena: a company called MTX. Founded in Albany, New York, and now based in Frisco, Texas, the small software company is raking in hundreds of millions of tax dollars to construct “virtual call centers” of 25,000 COVID data-mining agents. In Chicago, MTX has partnered with Google to create an app so residents can “pre-register” for the vaunted coronavirus vaccine and receive alerts on treatments and testing. In Georgia, the company nailed a five-year government contract for a new online contact-tracing platform. In New York and Massachusetts, MTX’s mission has spread to monitoring jobless claims and child care facilities.
Lynn Davenport, a Texas public school mom and student privacy activist, reports that MTX is “also donating its newly launched tracking application to all public school districts in the U.S.” Generous… or opportunist? As Davenport and other education technology watchdogs who have documented the proliferation of billions of dollars in invasive student data-mining schemes often remind us: “When it’s free, YOU (and your children) are the product.” Never forget: The price of “free” apps is access to your kids’ search engine queries, website and video browsing, and undoubtedly just around the corner: their temperature, weight and mental health.
Contact tracing makes sense for some types of infectious disease epidemics. But with something as widespread as COVID-19, with possibly hundreds of millions of asymptomatic people, it amounts to yet another cost-ineffective, virtue-signaling boondoggle.
Sure, they tell us our privacy is guaranteed. Medical privacy is sacrosanct in America, right? But did you know that the U.S. Health and Human Services has quietly relaxed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act data security and privacy requirements for pandemic testing sites, which will allow Big Pharma interests and other business interests to access previously protected personal health information?
Nothing to see here; move along.
If you do try to see and know more, good luck. Houston Chronicle reporters tried to shed sunlight on MTX’s deal with top Texas GOP officials and were lucky to obtain a heavily redacted copy of the company’s $295 million contract (paid with your money and mine). You know that creepy phrase “Operation Warp Speed” being used to ram a COVID vaccine through expedited, short-circuited clinical trials? Well, the same phrase applies to the adoption of these high-stakes contracts. Both anti-establishment Republicans and Trump-skeptical Democrats in Texas have raised red flags about the failure by Gov. Greg Abbott to provide advance notice to the state legislature of the enormous deal. The state took a hasty two days to approve MTX’s proposal after putting the project out for bid. The scheme was rolled out in just a little over two weeks.