Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I emailed massnotifyhelp@mass.gov to ask why the app was on my phone, and I got the following response:

Hi [my name],

In order for MassNotify to be available to users in their phone’s settings, an update was made by Google that resulted in some users seeing MassNotify appear in their app list in the Google Play Store. Apologies if this caused any confusion.

The appearance of MassNotify in the app list does not mean that MassNotify is enabled on your phone. The presence of the app merely means that MassNotify has been made available as an option in your phone's settings if you wish to enable it. For more information about this, please see this help center article from Google: https://support.google.com/android/answer/10775533

You can see whether MassNotify is active by going to Settings -> Google -> COVID-19 Exposure Notifications. The “Use Exposure Notifications” toggle at the top of the page will show you whether MassNotify is active or not. From this screen, you can also enable or disable MassNotify at any time.

If you have any further questions about this, or anything else related to MassNotify, please don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll be happy to help.



MassNotify Help Desk Team


For information about MA COVID-19 resources visit www.mass.gov/isolate

This raises an interesting point. Android subdivides much of its core functionality into various hidden "apps". Everyone's all up in arms about this, but I don't remember a similar outcry when the Covid-19 exposure API was "forcibly" added to the Google Services Framework. This isn't really any different from that, or any other OS update. I naturally agree that Google's remote-root is creepy and weird, but why is this the thing that's put a bee in everyone's bonnet? Is it just that an app in the app list is more visible? Won't this outcry merely encourage them to do things the less-visible way?

Likely because it's being perceived as a third party app that was just arbitrarily installed. At least it can be presented that way, which is enough to get the story to spread.

It's honestly not that far off from the truth. Just because google uses your phone as a personal playground all the time doesn't make this instance any more or less outrageous. If this is what it takes for it to be perceived as outrageous as it is, then fine.

Because it was done by the government, not just by Google. Yes, Google played a major role and yes, the tech companies do a lot of deeply concerning things on their own. But I was still taken aback that actual government software was installed on my phone without my knowledge or permission. It's a really bad precedent to set.

The fact that Google and the government worked hand in glove to do this doesn't make it less disturbing. Arguably it's more disturbing.

Precisely. That helpdesk answer is not adequate. Did Google push an app that the Mass dept of public help develops without MDPH being aware or approving that push? Or did MDPH know that google would do this?

Also because there's a substantial portion of our population that is radically opposed to anything that acknowledges the virus as anything but business as usual.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact