With guns drawn, police raid home and seize computers of COVID-19 data whistleblower

Eight months in the past, Deborah Birx of the White Home Coronavirus Activity Drive praised Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard for instance of “the sort of data and energy we have to put into the arms of the American folks.” That dashboard was constructed by Rebekah Jones.

However in Could, Jones was fired by the Florida Division of Well being for reportedly refusing to manipulate that data to justify reopening the state — and now, Florida state police have raided her house and brought the gear she was utilizing to take care of a brand new, impartial COVID-19 tracker of her personal.

Jones posted a series of tweets in regards to the incident, together with a video of police getting into — with weapons drawn.

Florida’s Division of Regulation Enforcement (FDLE) confirmed to the Miami Herald and the Tallahassee Democrat that police had a search warrant and had seized her gear. Right here’s the division’s full assertion as offered to The Verge:

“This morning FDLE served a search warrant at a residence on Centerville Court docket in Tallahassee, the house of Rebekah Jones. FDLE started an investigation November 10, 2020 after receiving a grievance from the Division of Well being relating to unauthorized entry to a Division of Well being messaging system which is a part of an emergency alert system, for use for emergencies solely. Brokers imagine somebody on the residence on Centerville Court docket illegally accessed the system.

When brokers arrived, they knocked on the door and referred to as Ms. Jones in an try to reduce disruption to the household. Ms. Jones refused to come back to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on brokers. After a number of makes an attempt and verbal notifications that legislation enforcement officers have been there to serve a authorized search warrant, Ms. Jones ultimately got here to the door and allowed brokers to enter. Ms. Jones household was upstairs when brokers made entry into the house.

Because the Tampa Bay Instances reported last month, somebody mysteriously despatched an unauthorized message to the state’s emergency public well being and medical coordination group, studying “converse up earlier than one other 17,000 persons are useless. You recognize that is mistaken. You don’t should be part of this. Be a hero. Converse out earlier than it’s too late.”

In accordance with an affidavit offered to us by the FDLE, legislation enforcement believes that Jones or somebody at her handle was the one who despatched it. We’re not publishing the affidavit as a result of it comprises numerous personally figuring out data, however the FDLE claims the message was despatched from a Comcast IP related along with her house handle and e-mail handle, and the affidavit asks permission to grab and search all pc gear police may discover.

Whereas there was a suggestion final month that the system might need been hacked, it apparently didn’t have significantly robust safety anyhow: the affidavit says the entire registered customers shared the identical username and password.

Jones didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark, however on Twitter she says she’s getting a brand new pc and can proceed to replace her new web site.

Extra reporting by Mitchell Clark

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