US Gov’t Talks With Big Tech About Tracking Coronavirus

US Gov Talks With Big Tech About Tracking COVID-19

The U.S. government is reportedly in talks with big tech companies about coming up with a way to use location services on cellphones to track the coronavirus, according to a report by TechCrunch.

The conversations include the potential use of anonymous, aggregated location data. Of course, the use of people’s personal data to track information has implications beyond just the virus and could be troubling for people who value privacy.

“We’re encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts,” an official with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy told The Washington Post.

The insights could potentially “help public health officials, researchers, and scientists improve their understanding of the spread of COVID-19 and transmission of the disease,” the officials said.

A task force that includes tech company executives, entrepreneurs and tech investors all showed a number of different ideas involving mapping the disease and telehealth on Sunday (March 15).

Participants included Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway; health leaders from Harvard University; and Hangar, a New York-based firm.

“We are still in the process of collecting ideas, recommendations and proposed actions from task force members, which we intend to present to the White House in the coming days,” said Hangar Managing Partner Josh Mendelsohn.

The tracking would be only to help organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) get a broader view of the patterns and spread of the disease, without revealing any personal information.

Many tech companies have come together to help combat the disease, and on Monday they released a statement about collaborating and fighting misinformation.

“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts,” said the statement from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Reddit and others. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”


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