Data scientist Rebekah Jones arrested in Florida

Jones accused of accessing state emergency-alert messaging system

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.Rebekah Jones, a former Florida Department of Health data analyst who helped develop the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, was arrested on a charge of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices, officials announced Monday morning.

Jones, whose home was raided by state investigators on Dec. 7, announced Sunday on Twitter that she was turning herself in, and she was arrested at the Leon County Detention Facility, according to officials.

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Online records show Jones bonded out of jail just before 11 a.m. Monday.

During her first appearance, her judge set her bond at $2,500, conditional on her having no contact with any of the people whose personal information was allegedly downloaded and no contact through state of Florida computer systems. He ruled against GPS monitoring and a ban on Internet access, which were conditions prosecutors had requested.

Jones was asked by reporters whether she wanted to make a statement as she left jail but her lawyer, Louis Jean Baptiste said “no statements, no comments right now, fellas.”

“Her personal safety should matter at some point,” Baptiste added. “We’d appreciate her privacy being respected as much as you all can afford that. I know you have a job to do and I appreciate the job you’re doing.”

Jones did tell reporters that she had just tested positive for COVID-19 while in jail.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said an investigation into Jones began Nov.10 when the FDLE received a complaint from the Florida Department of Health that someone illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system, known as ReadyOp.

The FDLE said agents determined the message was sent from a residence on Centerville Court in Tallahassee, the home of Jones.

Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on Dec. 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to about 1,750 people and downloaded confidential Florida Department of Health data and saved it to her devices, according to authorities.

Since her dismissal, Jones has questioned the accuracy of the state’s data.

“It’s time, to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know, this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late,” she said last year.

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