The U.S. government wants Google, Facebook, and other Big Tech companies to turn over the location data of Americans in order to help them monitor people’s compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Via NBC News:
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.
According to NBC, health officials have conducted two calls with representatives of major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple. A source at one of the tech companies reportedly said that officials are “very serious” about the data-sharing plan.
Google confirmed on Tuesday that the company is “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.”
However, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said: “There is no agreement to share people’s location data with governments.”
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.