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Gov. Bill Lee used cell phone data to issue stay-at-home order

Pikeville Medical center unveils a new app.
Pikeville Medical center unveils a new app.(WSAZ)
Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 11:34 PM EDT
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Governor Bill Lee said he’s used cell phone data to see Tennesseans are becoming more active since he asked people to stay at home last month. That data, he said in a press conference on Thursday, weighed heavily on his decision to issue a stay at home order.

His use of cell phone data has some concerned for their privacy.

"It’s been said your phones actually a tracking device that you can talk on, and that’s pretty true," LMU Law Professor Stewart Harris said.

We're always looking for the newest gadget and latest app. We quickly accept terms and conditions without even thinking about it.

"We click on that button," Harris said.'I accept your terms of service I assert that I've read them,' but of course no one actually reads them. In those terms of service you’re agreeing to that company to share whatever data it collects about you, and that’s precisely what they do."

Harris said companies then sell that money to advertisers, other companies, and even the State of Tennessee.

"We saw the numbers of movement by their cell phone activity the movement of those cell phones and that data is what weighed into this decision," Governor Bill Lee said.

He said the state looked at data collected by a company called Unacast.

were becoming more active in recent days, which could increase the spread of the coronavirus.

"There was clearly a rise in movement back to levels we hadn’t had for many days before," Lee said.

Harris said people shouldn't be too concerned about privacy in this case.

"What they are selling is aggregated information," Harris said. "The governor can look in aggregate what people in Tennessee are doing, but he can’t look at what you’re doing in particular that’s the essential difference here."

He said while we all might not like giving up all this information, it's the way of the world now, and the governor is doing what he legally can to keep Tennesseans safe

"He needs as much data as he can get," Harris said. "In this particular circumstance, there doesn’t seem to be much compromising of privacy interests of Tennesseans, so this is a good exercise of his powers."

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