The White House is exploring how data harvested by tech companies like Google and Facebook can be used to track people infected by the coronavirus. The idea is to use information gathered from smartphones to map the spread of the contagious disease and to track those infected to see if they’re properly distancing themselves from other people to prevent an uptick in the number of cases.
The Washington Post reports that amid privacy and security concerns, Google spokesperson Johnny Luu says the data that the government and health authorities will look into will not include a single individual’s location, movement or contacts.
“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.”
In Israel, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman confirms that the internal security service agency has the greenlight to use surveillance technology to track citizens infected by coronavirus.
Argaman says individual privacy will be strictly observed and the geolocation data gathered from smartphones and credit card use will only be used to send warnings to people who may be exposed to the virus.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information, he says the data will be handled by a a small number of agents and will not be saved in the agency’s database.
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