After US government held discussions with tech companies to discuss using smartphone location data, Alphabet’s Google is exploring ways to use location information to slow the spread of the coronavirus by, for example, determining the effectiveness of social distancing.
“We need assurances that collection and processing of these types of information, even if aggregated and anonymized, do not pose safety and privacy risks to individuals,” US Senator Ed Markey wrote.
He asked the government to describe how the data would be collected, anonymized and stored, who would have access to it and which companies were involved in the effort.
“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.
“In the US, 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,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We have not received requests for location data from the US government.”