U.S. Government Seeks to Use Smartphone Data to Monitor Social Distancing Compliance

The U.S. government  are reportedly considering ordering tech companies to hand over data to monitor if people are complying with social distancing guidelines during the Coronavirus pandemic.

According the NBC

Federal health officials say they could use anonymous, aggregated user data collected by the tech companies to map the spread of the virus — a practice known as “syndromic surveillance” — and prevent further infections. They could also use the data to see whether people were practicing “social distancing.”

Some sources stressed that the effort would be anonymized and that government would not have access to specific individuals’ locations. They noted that users would be required to opt-in to the effort.

The federal effort, first reported by The Washington Post, will force the tech giants to weigh their commitments to user privacy against their desire to help combat a disease that has cost thousands of human lives and upended the global economy.

Google confirmed that it is looking at how anonymous aggregated user data could be used in the fight against Covid-19. Saying they are,  “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.”

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