The U.S. government is in talks with Facebook, Google, and other tech companies about the possibility of using smartphone location data to track the coronavirus spread.
As reported by the Washington Post, technology companies could aggregate anonymous data on the location of users to be used to map the spread of coronavirus and determine whether the strategy of distancing people is effective in mitigating the infection.
Some Facebook executives said that the government is interested in knowing the patterns of people’s movements, which can be provided through the data the social network offer. In the past, the company has offered this type of information in the form of maps for disease prevention to health researchers and to understand where to allocate health resources.
Government sources say that a “government database” is not being built and that information from location data could “help public health officials, researchers and scientists improve their understanding of the spread of COVID19 and disease transmission “.
As the Washington Post points out, the use of data on the location of smartphones could make some American users uncomfortable, so much will depend on their implementation. The data provided by Facebook for other disease monitoring projects limit location data to a third of a mile, with no other information on an individual’s movements.
Many tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon, met with White House officials last week to find some measures designed to contain the epidemic.