Florida-licensed data scientist charged with illegal access to state computer

Rebekah Jones, a former Florida Department of Health data scientist who claims she was wrongfully fired last year, has been charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, networks computers and electronic devices, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Driving the news: Jones surrendered on Sunday night after an arrest warrant was issued against her. Authorities raided his home last month, sparking an outcry online after tweeting a video of the incident.

  • At the time, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) told local news outlets it opened an investigation on November 10 “after receiving a complaint from the Department of Health regarding unauthorized access to a Ministry of Health messaging system that is part of an emergency alert system, to be used only in emergencies. “

Catch up quickly: Jones was fired last year for saying she refused to “manipulate data” for the state, according to the Tallahassee diplomat.

  • The Florida Health Department called Jones’ initial allegations of data manipulation “patently bogus.”
  • A spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told the Miami Herald in May 2020 that Jones was dismissed from his post for “a repeated course of insubordination,” which included changing the COVID-19 dashboard of the department.
  • Jones then created his own coronavirus case tracker as an alternative to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

What they say : “The raid was based on a lie. Yet the state issued an arrest warrant against me – even though the “crime” is unrelated to the warrant, to the scope of the warrant, and they didn’t wait for a third party to review the confidential information. on my computers “, Jones tweeted On Saturday.

  • “The new allegation was issued the day after a Tallahassee judge told police that if they were not investigating a crime they had to return my equipment. They found no evidence of anything. either related to the mandate, then they invented something new to come and get me in retaliation, “she added.
  • “To protect my family from continued police violence and to show that I’m ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I’m turning into police in Florida on Sunday night. The governor won’t win his war on science and freedom expression. He will not silence those who speak out. “
  • Upon her release after posting bail on Monday, she told reporters she had just tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN.

The FDLE did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment, but in a statement to the WSJ, officials said: “Evidence from a search warrant on December 7 shows Jones illegally accessed the system by sending message to about 1,750 people and downloading the confidential FDOH data and saved it on its devices. “

For memory : Jones has denied sending the message or illegally accessing a restricted site, the WSJ noted.

The big picture: DeSantis has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic.

  • A South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation, released in early December, reported that “the DeSantis administration was engaged in a scheme of hijacking and cover-up which misled the public about the most serious health threat to which the state has never faced “.

Go further: Florida Police Raid Home of Scientist Who Challenged State Over COVID-19 Data

Sean N. Ayres