Google to limit federal access to location data as it fights coronavirus
Google said on Tuesday that it would be limiting the access that the federal government has to its massive collection of user location data, even as it said it would help the government try to slow the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Because of Google Maps and its line of Android devices, Google handles large amounts of detailed location data from its users. Federal officials pointed to this data as a potential resource to help track the movements of Americans during the pandemic and have been in recent talks with Google and its competitors.
In a March 3 Senate hearing, an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly said the Google’s location data was being used to observe “travel patterns and for other means.”
However, in a statement, Google said that it would not be sharing “aggregate anonymized location data for this purpose as we are still assessing the best way to help” and affirmed that it wouldn’t share any of the data within the industry.
“We’re exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against COVID-19,” a Google spokesperson told Bloomberg in an email. “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.”
There are over 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with at least 114 deaths.