What you need to know
- Google reportedly installed the official Massachusetts COVID-19 contact tracing app on Android devices without any consent from users.
- Several Massachusetts residents claim they never even received a notification that the app was installed on their phone.
- The majority of the users say they did not have COVID-19 Exposure Notifications enabled.
According to multiple reports from Massachusetts residents, the state's official "MassNotify" COVID-19 contact tracing app is being automatically installed on the best Android phones without any permission or notification (via Ycombinator). What makes this particularly worrying is that a large number of users are reporting that they do not have Android Exposure Notifications enabled and the app was still installed on their Android phone in the background.
Users are also unhappy with the fact that the app isn't easy to uninstall. It appears the only way to uninstall it is to head over to its Play Store page using the package name "Exposure Notifications Settings Feature - MA". As can be seen in the screenshot below, the app page is filled with 1-star reviews from infuriated users.
Google's support page for the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications System says users must download an official app from their region's public health authority to get started, and that the "system only works if you decide to use it." While Google has admitted that the app is being automatically distributed through the Play Store, it has clarified that contact tracing isn't actually enabled unless the user opts in.
In a statement sent to Android Central, a Google spokesperson said:
We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings. This functionality is built into the device settings and is automatically distributed by the Google Play Store, so users don't have to download a separate app. COVID-19 Exposure Notifications are enabled only if a user proactively turns it on. Users decide whether to enable this functionality and whether to share information through the system to help warn others of possible exposure.