Smartphone Location Data Could Become a Way to Fight Coronavirus Spread


At this point Coronavirus is not a thing that should be taken lightly; the virus is spreading rapidly across the globe and causing many countries to announce shutdowns. The situation is getting dire by the day, and we are hearing a lot of cancellations in the tech world,  as well.

It goes without saying that the situation is dire and the leading governments in the world are doing their best to curb the spread and keep this pandemic at bay. The latest update on the virus and how companies are looking into ways to tackle it is coming from a post shared by The Washington Post about how the U.S Government is currently in talks with tech giants like Facebook, Google, as well as a number of health experts and other tech companies.

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Location Data Could Be Used to Monitor Whether People Are Maintaining Safe Distance to Prevent the Virus from Spreading

While many might not approve of this but this possibility is currently being looked into and involves tracking of people and whether they are keeping a safe distance from each other through the device's location data.

Currently, public health experts are looking into the possibility that private sector companies can use the data anonymously and in a collected form. Once gathered, the data can be then used to map just how far the infection has spread. The project is currently said to be in the early stages.

The analysis of smartphone owners' trends to track the spread of the virus is definitely a good thing, considering how the virus has infected over 180,000 people all around the world. But it is also important to know that people residing in the U.S might not be comfortable with this approach. Of course, most of it depends on just how this is implemented, in the first place. The biggest concern comes from the question as to whether the data collected will become a part of a government database or not.

In an interview, Facebook executives have talked about how the U.S government is mainly keen on figuring out the patterns by which people move. These patterns can be derived by using the data that Facebook collects from the users who have their location services turned on. This is not the first time Facebook would be providing in the form of statistics, however, this time around, the cause is much greater as we are fighting a pandemic.

An official with the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy has gone on record and stated that,

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“We’re encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts,”

The project is still in the early stages as companies along with the government are looking at the trajectory of just how severe the situation could become. However, the decision to use location data is a smart one as it will allow people as well as companies to place in more countermeasures.

The spread of COVID-19 is still continuing with many countries trying to deploy effective measures as well as the research for an effective vaccine. This is one of the scariest pandemics that the world has seen, and the situation does not seem to be calming down. In such a dire state, taking any precautionary measure is important and helping out tech companies is definitely a step in the right direction.

Do you think the government should be given access to such data? Let us know your thoughts on whether this would help control the virus.