Google to Use Location Data to Contain Coronavirus Outbreak

CIOReviewIndia Team | Friday, 20 March 2020, 10:00 IST

As world struggles to fight coronavirus epidemic, Google is exploring opportunities to use location data, for instance, determining the effectiveness of social distancing, to contain the corona outbreak.      

 As per the reports, the US government is in talks with the top tech companies including Google, Facebook and Apple, about using location data to map the spread of the virus and predict future outbreak areas. Though the government has not yet confirmed the reports, but the plans are in early stages.  “This work would follow our stringent privacy protocols and would not involve sharing data about any individual’s location, movement, or contacts,” a Google representative said in a statement.      

However, Facebook in a statement said that there is no agreement with the government to share location data of individuals. “In the U.S., we briefed the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on the work we do with aggregate, de-identified data maps with researchers — which has been previously reported — and they were supportive of our doing more of it. We have not received requests for location data from the U.S. government,” a Facebook spokesman said.  

The U.S. Senator Ed Markey cautioned the government in its efforts to partner with tech companies to track the spread of coronavirus.   He also asked the government to describe the location data of the individuals would be collected, and used, etc. and who would have access to the data and which companies were involved in the process. “Although I agree that we must use technological innovations and collaboration with the private sector to combat the coronavirus, we cannot embrace action that represents a wholesale privacy invasion, particularly when it involves highly sensitive and personal location information. I urge you to balance privacy with any data-driven solutions to the current public health crisis,” Markey wrote to Michael Kratsios, the US government’s chief technology officer.