Coronavirus Tracking App MassNotify Automatically Downloaded Onto Unsuspecting Bay Staters’ Android Phones

Printed from:

An app created by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has downloaded onto people’s cell phones without their permission.

Many Android users have reported that an app automatically downloaded to their cell phone — and it was no mistake. It’s called MassNotify, and it comes from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Android cell phone users have had no advance knowledge that the application would download on their phones. It takes up 19.69 megabytes of storage on a cell phone, a NewBostonPost reporter found when looking for the app on someone else’s cell phone on Wednesday afternoon.

Former state representative Geoff Diehl, a Republican from Whitman who is considering a run for governor in Massachusetts, was among those affected by it. He posted about it on Facebook on Tuesday morning, writing, “The state of Massachusetts installed a tracking app on my phone without my knowledge or permission. On yours, too, probably. When did this become acceptable?”

Diehl elaborated on the matter in an email message to NewBostonPost on Wednesday afternoon.

“With the initial Massachusetts vaccination rollout plan notoriously failing to effectively communicate to citizens where they could get shots, it’s surprising and disappointing to see that there was no attempt to inform people that a state agency had made arrangements to place tracking software on their smartphones,” he wrote. “This wasn’t just the exposure notification app that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health had implemented, but a tracking program that did not provide any warning to Android phone users.
“This is potentially a very serious constitutional violation of our right to privacy and I would hope someone from DPH or the Governor’s administration would make an attempt to clarify just how this moved forward without a plan to inform the people of the Commonwealth that their movements could and would be traced by a government agency,” he added. “And just what happens to all that data? Can it somehow be shared with other state agencies? Will it be deleted at some point? These are questions the Secretary or Governor need to answer.”

The web site for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts says that the state partnered with both Google and Apple to create an app to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. It says that if a person opts in, the app uses the phone’s Bluetooth to share anonymous codes with other MassNotify users. Once the app is activated, says the state’s web site:


If another user you’ve been near tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, you will be notified. If you test positive, you can easily and anonymously notify others to stop the spread of COVID-19.


A spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services provided NewBostonPost with some additional details on the matter on Wednesday.

The spokesman said that a person must opt-in to the service in order to use it, and that when it downloads onto someone’s phone, that does not mean the app is automatically enabled.

“The presence of the app means that MassNotify has been made available as an option in a phone’s settings if the user wishes to enable it,” the spokesman said.

A Google spokesman issued a statement to NewBostonPost on the matter, as well:


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.


This app does not automatically download onto Apple cell phones. Instead, Apple users received a push notification asking if they wanted to turn on coronavirus exposure notifications. A NewBostonPost reporter also received this notification on an Apple product when in New York last month. 


New to NewBostonPost?  Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts.  But you’ve found it.  Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months.  And join the real revolution.