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Kansas’ review of cellphone GPS data raises privacy concerns

Coronavirus in Kansas

Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment, answers questions about the coronavirus pandemic as Gov. Laura Kelly watches during a news conference, Monday, March 23, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. . (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is facing questions over the state’s monitoring of GPS data gleaned from people’s cellphones about how residents have cut down on travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Kelly on Thursday defended the state Department of Health and Environment’s use of the data.

She called its compilation “harmless” to individuals and said it helps the state focus efforts to promote social distancing where they’re needed most.

The public-interest law firm Kansas Justice Institute sent a follow-up letter confirming her statements.

“KJI will continue to monitor the civil liberties of all Kansans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and response. We thank Governor Kelly for responding to our concerns,” said Sam MacRoberts. “Transparency and accountability will safeguard both our public health and our liberties. Together, we will flatten this curve with our liberties intact.”

Unacast said in a statement Thursday that it uses aggregated mobility and anonymous data from tens of millions of devices but it “never shows individuals’ behavior.”

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