Courtesy of Rebecca Jones
Updated at 11:45 ET
Rebecca Jones, the data scientist who helped create the COVID-19 dashboard in Florida, turned herself in to police in response to an arrest warrant issued by the state.
Jones has been charged with counting “crimes against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices,” a Florida law enforcement statement said Monday.
Jones said she lost her job after refusing requests to manipulate data to suggest Florida was willing to ease restrictions on the coronavirus. Jones says she has been punished for continuing to talk about how Governor Ron Desantis is dealing with COVID-19, citing the arrest and attack on her home last month.
The FDLE said in a statement that “evidence extracted from the search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones had illegal access to the system by sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloading confidential data from the FDOH and storing it on his devices.”
According to Jones, investigators in Florida “found no evidence” of the incident that officials said caused the attack: a chat message sent to an emergency alert platform planning group urging people to speak publicly about Florida’s coronavirus strategies. She wrote on Twitter on Saturday, “the police did find documents I received / downloaded from state sources, or something like that.”
The arrest warrant, received by NPR, alleges that Jones gained unauthorized access to state health department software on Nov. 10 and sent a mass text to officers reading, “It’s time to talk before another 17,000 people die. “You know it’s wrong. You don’t have to be a part of it. Be a hero. Speak before it’s too late.”
It says the message causes “suspicion and confusion” among the working groups that share this planning account, and urges IT staff to turn their attention to resolving a possible cyber attack. In total, according to the order, about 30 employees had to suspend their regular duties to deal with the incident.
The order also alleges that Jones downloaded and stored data from the health department – contact information for “approximately 19,182 people in the state of Florida” – on her own devices and tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the messaging platform on November 12. .
Following the news of the pending arrest warrant for Florida, the law enforcement department told NPR that the agency was in talks with its lawyers to settle it.
Jones said Saturday she planned to surrender. She was later taken into custody in Tallahassee County, Leon.
“To protect my family from ongoing police violence and to show that I am ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I am becoming a police officer in Florida on Sunday night,” she said on Twitter. “The governor will not win his war with science and freedom of speech. He will not silence those who speak.”
Jones, who is facing a third-degree charge of a crime, appeared before a judge in a live hearing on Monday morning. Jones’ lawyers said during the hearing that she currently lives in Washington and has driven for two days to surrender.
The judge set Jones’ bond at $ 2,500, provided it had no contact with any of the people whose personal information was allegedly withdrawn, and no contact through Florida computer systems. He spoke out against GPS surveillance and the ban on Internet access requested by the state.
In early December, Florida law enforcement officers confiscated Jones’ computer, phone and other devices when they searched her home in Tallahassee. She later filed a lawsuit, saying that the raid, in which agents entered her home with withdrawn weapons, was another act of revenge against her.
On Saturday, Jones said on Twitter that the state’s allegation against her “was published the day after a Tallahassee judge told police that if they did not investigate a crime, they should return my equipment.”
In the months following Jones’ dismissal, she set up her own coronavirus information board, called Florida COVID Action, offering data and information on testing options. When she released it, a State Department of Health spokesman defended the state billboard and suggested Jones’ version include unreliable data.