As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to strongly affect the United States, millions of citizens are now forced to stay home to try to contain the spread of the disease. The FBI attempted to fall into the good graces of Americans by sharing their physical exercise application on Twitter, encouraging netizens trapped at home to try it out. However, in addition to giving instructions on how to stay active, the application collects user data, including their location and which WiFi network they are connected to.
The alert was given by a Twitter user who decided to try the application and was faced with a series of permission requests that alarmed him. The publication went viral and led many to think that the FBI was actually trying to come up with a covert way of ensuring that people are, in fact, at home during the pandemic.
Although it is currently being advertised as a kind of personal trainer for those in isolation, the FBI FitTest has been around since 2018. By the time it was launched, the FBI application already raised suspicions about the potentially suspicious way it collects and treats patients. user data, CNBC reported. According to experts, the language used in the application's privacy policies only made it more complicated to decipher what the application did to the information of those using it.
Smartphone location data is increasingly being used by governments around the world as a way to ensure that citizens comply with mandatory isolation or quarantine measures. In the United States, for example, the Donald Trump Government is in negotiations with technological giants, such as Google, and with experts in the health field to develop a plan that uses this type of information in order to halt the spread of the disease in the country .
Countries that are already using the strategy of collecting location data from smartphone users or monitoring applications are already involved. The digital rights group Top10VPN is following the development of the situation, compiling what is being done by Governments. So far, Portugal is not on the list.