Postal Service accused of sharing private info of 68M households obtained from COVID-19 tests

Postal Service accused of sharing private info of 68M households obtained from COVID-19 tests

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is being accused of sharing the private information of up to 68 million households with labor unions.

The USPS delivered more than 270 million free Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) tests to over 68 million American households back in March 2022. For these COVID-19 tests to reach American homes, families had to fill out a form on the USPS website with their full name, email and postal address.

This program was authorized by the administration of President Joe Biden, who touted his “free COVID tests” and encouraged millions of Americans to sign up to receive them.

But according to the nonprofit labor union watchdog Americans for Fair Treatment (AFFT), a clause in the online form that many Americans likely did not read allows the USPS to “disclose your information to third parties without your consent.” This includes sharing the data to “labor organizations as required by applicable law.”

The wording of this privacy policy differs from the USPS’ standard privacy notice, which makes no mention of unions.

COVID-19 test data could be passed to unions for political campaigning

AFFT CEO Elisabeth Messenger warned that, if labor unions get a hold of all of the data, it could be successfully used for political campaigns.

“We’re talking over 70 million households by now. That’s more than half the households in the United States,” she said. “The unions have done an incredible job of gathering data in the past, getting union members’ boots on the ground to door knock and be available for political candidates.”

“This would be the freshest, most accurate data you could get. No one is going to put a fake address. People really wanted these COVID tests, so they gave the most accurate information,” she added.

In response to the change in the privacy policy, the AFFT filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the USPS last February asking why there’s a change in the disclaimer allowing personal data to be shared with labor unions, and requesting “all records concerning USPS’s disclosure to any labor organization of information it obtained through the COVID-19 test webform.”

“The public should understand why USPS has departed from its published Privacy Act notice just for the COVID-19 webform but for no other situation,” read the AFFT’s request. “AFFT seeks to learn and educate the public about why USPS would provide sensitive information that is covered by the Privacy Act to labor organizations and the extent to which it has done so.”

When the Postal Service finally agreed to release the documents, which were nine pages of emails between USPS staffers, they were so heavily redacted to be practically unusable for learning anything. In April, the AFFT sued the USPS in a federal court in Washington, D.C.

The organization claims USPS conducted an “inadequate search” and reached an “arbitrary and capricious” decision not to disclose more information. AFFT lawyer David Dorey claimed that postal officials are “hiding behind a legal smokescreen” and “stonewalling” the organization.

“They are avoiding our client’s simple questions: Why does USPS say it can, without consent, share Americans’ personal information with union officials, and what has it actually done with that information?” he added. “Why not answer the question? If you haven’t done anything with this information, why not just say that? I would love to know. But instead, they’re hiding behind the legal process.”

Learn more about instances of government surveillance and procurement of personal information at PrivacyWatch.news.

Watch this clip of the World Economic Forum’s Yuval Noah Harari acknowledging that in “the big battle” between privacy and health, “people will give up privacy.”

(Article by Arsenio Toledo republished from Citizens.news)

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