The former manager of Florida’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard, who claims she was fired for refusing to manipulate state data, has been named the first ever Forbes Technology Person of the Year, the magazine announced.
Data scientist Rebekah Jones was given the distinction as part of Forbes annual technology awards on Dec. 26 for her role in creating the acclaimed dashboard and for being one of the “geeks” who stepped up when governments failed, the mag wrote.
In the spring, the dashboard, which tracked cases, deaths, testing and other data, was praised by Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force as a model for other state health departments because of the wealth of information it provided.
But it wasn’t the dashboard that made Jones famous.
In May, the previously unknown government worker claimed she was fired by Florida’s Department of Health for refusing to manipulate state data.
Sunshine State Gov. Ron DeSantis denied that was the reason for Jones’s termination and said the scientist was dismissed for putting data on the portal scientists “didn’t believe was valid” and for refusing to listen to her supervisors, WTSP reported.
Following her termination, Jones kept up the work by launching an independent COVID-19 tracking dashboard and a later portal that tracked cases in schools.
A few weeks before the Forbes nomination, police officers raided Jones’s home with their guns drawn and seized her phone and computer over allegations she unlawfully accessed Florida’s state emergency alert system.
The scientist denies the charges and recently filed suit against the state’s Department of Law Enforcement, the outlet reported.
Following the award, Jones took to Twitter to celebrate.
“I got named Nerd of the Year by @Forbes @ForbesTech!” Jones tweeted on Dec. 28.
“I never thought I’d be this excited to be recognized singularly for being a geek!!!!”