A liberal health care advocacy group tracked the cell phones of protesters at anti-lockdown demonstrations in 5 states, according to a story in the New York Post.
The Committee to Protect Medicare used data collected from from opt-in cellphone apps and data scientists at the firm VoteMap. The company specializes in mobile phone political advertising, mostly for left wing candidates. Votemap used that data to track the movements of protesters in April and May in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado and Florida.
They created visualizations that tracked the movements up to 48 hours after the protests ended, and Jeremy Fair, executive vice president of VoteMap, told the newspaper that many of the cellphones reached the state borders and some even crossed them.
Following rallies opposing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders in Lansing, Mich., on April 30, the devices fanned out to all parts of the state — from Detroit to towns in the northern part of the state.
Some crossed into Indiana.
The information was anonymous so the Committee to Protect Medicare wasn’t tracking specific, named individuals. But it appears the liberal group cared more about the politics of the protests than they did about trying to “protect Medicare.”
In the 48 hours following a 19 April “Operation Gridlock” protest in Denver, devices reached the borders of neighboring states including Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah.
In Florida on 18 April, devices returned to all parts of the peninsula and up to the Georgia border. In Wisconsin on 24 April, devices returned to smaller towns like Green Bay and Wausau, and the borders of Minnesota and Illinois.
Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, said, “it’s hard to draw a straight line between devices, individuals at these protests, and cases.” In fact, it’s impossible to reliably connect the dots. But Davidson, who once ran for Congress as a Democrat, says, “The behavior we’re seeing at protests carries a high risk of infection. We can see protesters are going from a highly concentrated event and then dispersing widely.”
To try and pinpoint infections as a result of people attending the protests, you’d have to track them a lot more than a few days. If they didn’t have the virus before the rally, it would take several days before they even became infectious. Without knowing whom they’ve come in contact with once infectious, it’s a fool’s errand to track their phones.
Except it’s useful as a political tool. The group can claim, “See? The virus spread to this area or that area because of the protests.” It won’t necessarily be true, but it sure sounds good as a soundbite on the news.
Contact tracing would be useful but it’s doubtful that it’s as vital as some people say it would be. It’s another useful tool for health officials to use when trying to contain the virus. But it’s not a panacea.
If the Committee to Protect Medicare wants to spend a lot of money to get fairly useless information, that’s their business. As long as they’re not spying on individuals, it’s perfectly legal.