US government using citizens’ smartphone location data for the COVID-19-tracking portal: Report

By Xite - March 30, 2020
The US government is preparing a portal that will use citizens’ geolocation data that will help it formulate a plan of action to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. The data is being sourced by adve....

With the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting US citizens, the government is taking further steps to track the movement of its citizens for a portal that will help officials curb the advancement of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the federal government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local governments have started to receive location data of smartphone users.

Citing sources, WSJ says that the authorities have started to ‘receive analyses about the presence and movement of people in certain areas of geographic interest drawn from cellphone data’. ‘The CDC has started to get analyses based on location data through an ad hoc coalition of tech companies and data providers—all working in conjunction with the White House and others in government,’ reports WSJ, citing people familiar with the matter.

The portal, which will reportedly use data of people from up to 500 US cities, will help the government to plan a response. The report says that the data will not have details like the name of a phone’s owner. The move will help the government identify the establishments that are still crowded and are risking the spread of the virus. It will also allow the authorities to check whether people are following its stay-at-home mandate.

A similar app is being developed in India. In India, the government will use phone numbers and location data of users to match their movements with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data. The ICMR has the data related to the movements of Coronavirus-positive patients. The World Health Organisation is also preparing an app that will give news, alerts, and tips about the COVID-19 pandemic.

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