On May 12, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy unveiled plans for a new statewide COVID-19 digital tracking and monitoring program. Under the initiative, the state will be contracting with Dimagi Corp., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based technology firm, to bring Dimagi’s mobile data collection platform, CommCare, to New Jersey. According to the company’s website, the CommCare digital platform enables users and field teams to easily collect, track and manage information via a mobile app — even without a signal. Dimagi’s website also states that it receives significant support from its program partner, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Governor Murphy signed an executive order on May 12 mandating that all local, county and regional health departments use the CommCare platform to support New Jersey’s surveillance efforts. The order states that “contact tracing is a key strategy, together with testing, social distancing, quarantining, and treatment, for preventing further spread of COVID-19 and reopening the economy.”
New Jersey presently has about 800 to 900 contact tracers working at the county level. Governor Murphy said that he plans to hire 1,000 additional workers to build a “community contact tracing corps.” The governor also indicated that he is in the midst of recruiting individuals from Rutgers University to help build the state’s expanding network of contract tracers.
The new CommCare surveillance platform has been billed as a key solution in improving New Jersey’s coordinated statewide workflow and communication response. Although Governor Murphy maintains that the surveillance program is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19, many New Jerseyans have serious concerns. For example:
- Why was the program quietly invoked under an emergency executive order?
- How will privacy, confidentiality and security be handled?
- How will New Jersey legislators uphold their oath to protect citizens’ basic human, civil and constitutional rights?
- Will participation be mandatory, or will residents be able to opt in or opt out of the program?
- What are the consequences if someone chooses not to comply with testing, monitoring or quarantine?
- If COVID-19 is primarily affecting the elderly and those in long-term care facilities, why is the entire state being put under strict surveillance?
- Why weren’t similar initiatives launched during other deadly outbreaks like SARS, MERS and H1N1?
- What is the cost of the CommCare program — and how will the state demonstrate that the taxpayer-funded investment is proving effective toward reducing further transmission and saving lives?
With so many unanswered questions — and the possibility that this program could lay the groundwork for a medical police state that gives unlimited power to New Jersey officials and the organizations with which they contract — it’s time to demand answers!
New Jersey residents are calling for public hearings to immediately be held to disclose and discuss the details of the new surveillance program, including comprehensive information on gaps, vulnerabilities and risks. With so much at stake, citizens want their questions and concerns addressed in an expeditious manner. As such, it is incumbent upon legislative officials to promptly provide in-depth information on the short- and long-term effects this digital tracking and surveillance initiative will have on every New Jersey resident. Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley (D-District 20) believes that transparency is paramount at this time, especially in light of the fact that so little is known about this program that was quietly ushered in.
“My concern is invasive surveillance,” Holley said. “When will it end? Before New Jerseyans and others across the country agree to an initiative that involves the release of their personal information, they need to know what they will be sacrificing. That is why I am calling for these public hearings. We are desperate for more information.”
In the meantime, New Jersey residents must demand that their constitutional rights will be protected, that their privacy and confidentiality will be fully upheld, and that participation in the surveillance program (or refusal to participate) will not result in any discriminatory or punitive measures. Most of all, citizens need assurances that that they can continue to exercise their rights to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their family members — and that they are free from unwanted individuals in their homes and threats that authorities might try to involuntarily quarantine them or their children.
During times of emergency, health freedom and constitutional rights don’t stop being important; they become more important. Please stand alongside Assemblyman Holley and millions of other New Jersey residents who want answers about New Jersey’s new tracking and monitoring program. Click below NOW to send an email to your legislators demanding an immediate public hearing on the CommCare citizen surveillance initiative! Then please share this this important campaign with your friends and family and ask them to stand for health freedom.