The U.S. government wants to work with big social tech giants like Google, Facebook, and others to track the spread of COVID-19
By Aaron Kesel
The goal would be to aggregate citizens’ location data to help track the spread of COVID-19 and presumably make sure that people are social distancing and quarantining when appropriate. The proposed partnership, described by the Washington Post, would also aim to map out how COVID-19 is being transmitted and whether or not current quarantine methods are working.
The companies would use location data from apps and smartphones themselves to accomplish this goal.
According to the report which cited unnamed anonymous White House officials, they would use aggregated, anonymized data provided by tech companies to determine the probability of transmission of the coronavirus between different regions in the U.S.
“We’re encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts,” an official with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy told the Washington Post.
The insights could potentially “help public health officials, researchers, and scientists improve their understanding of the spread of COVID-19 and transmission of the disease,” the officials said.
Still, the the project is raising red flags for those concerned with privacy.
The plan comes after multiple meetings between White House officials and the big tech industry, according to Business Insider. The proposed project isn’t yet in operation but that could change in the near future.
Earlier this week, Israel’s government approved a new emergency regulation that would allow it to monitor, spy, and track cellphone location data of known coronavirus patients without court approval. The underlying goal of this approach is to warn individuals who happen to cross paths with a coronavirus carrier that they too could also be infected with the novel virus.
The use of personal data has implications beyond just the virus and could be troubling for people who value the future of privacy. It should be noted that any police state actions are prone to continue long after this pandemic has subsided. Giving up freedoms and liberties now will likely have an everlasting effect felt for generations to come.