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U.S. government, tech industry discussing ways to use smartphone location data to combat coronavirus

The U.S. government is in active talks with Facebook, Google and a wide array of tech companies and health experts about how they can use location data gleaned from Americans’ phones to combat the novel coronavirus, including tracking whether people are keeping one another at safe distances to stem the outbreak.


Public-health experts are interested in the possibility that private-sector companies could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could then use to map the spread of the infection, according to three people familiar with the effort, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the project is in its early stages.


Analyzing trends in smartphone owners’ whereabouts could prove to be a powerful tool for health authorities looking to track coronavirus, which has infected more than 180,000 people globally. But it’s also an approach that could leave some Americans uncomfortable, depending on how it’s implemented, given the sensitivity when it comes to details of their daily whereabouts. Multiple sources stressed that — if they proceed — they are not building a government database.


“We’re exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against COVID-19. One example could be helping health authorities determine the impact of social distancing, similar to the way we show popular restaurant times and traffic patterns in Google Maps,” spokesman Johnny Luu said in a statement, stressing any such partnership “would not involve sharing data about any individual’s location, movement, or contacts.”

“我们正在探索收集匿名位置信息的方法,以帮助对抗COVID-19,一个很好的例子可以帮助卫生当局决定社会距离的影响,这类似于我们受欢迎的餐厅时间和交通模式显示在谷歌地图上,”发言人Johnny Luu:“说在一份声明中,强调任何此类伙伴关系”不会涉及任何个人共享数据的位置、运动或联系人。”

Read more at The Washington Post