Google automatically installed a Covid-19 tracker on phones in Costa Rica

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Tags: costa rica covid-19 Google installed phones App Tracking

On June 11, Costa Ricans awoke to a mysterious new app icon, reading “Ministerio de Salud de Costa Rica,” appearing on their Android phones without their permission. The reaction among right-wing and other government-skeptical crowds was particularly pointed. “Go fuck yourself, you can’t break into private property,” wrote one Twitter user.

Within hours, the mystery was revealed: the Ministry of Health announced it was part of a contact tracing program developed by Google and Apple. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to launch the initiative, and a system update mistakenly portrayed the icon as an app before the government was able to announce it. The rollout, which had been in the works for months, was botched by a few errant pixels.

Malditas ratas installing applications without our consent and behind our backs,” wrote another Twitter user, a computer technician named Diego Vargas, who declared himself to be “anti-feminazis, anti-progressive” in his bio. Vargas told Rest of World that when he saw people complaining on Twitter about the app, he went to check his Android phone. It did not appear on the homepage. As an IT worker, though, he knew to look under the system list of all his applications, and there it was — Ministry of Health of Costa Rica, 12.28MB. His parents, also Android users, had it too.

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