Federal government in talks with tech groups to use phone location data to track coronavirus: report


The federal government is in talks with Facebook, Google and other tech companies about ways to use smartphone location data to tackle the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Washington is reportedly interested in using the data to better understand how the virus spreads and to see whether people are practicing social distancing.

A new task force made up of tech and other industry executives presented ideas for the use of the location data at a White House meeting Sunday, the Post reported. Presenters included officials from Harvard University and representatives from top tech groups and Silicon Valley firms.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

An unnamed OSTP official told The Washington Post that they were “encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage, aggregate, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts.”

The meeting came on the heels of a summit led by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios last week with federal agencies and executives from tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon to hash out how Silicon Valley can help fight the spread of coronavirus.

“The White House’s top priority is ensuring the safety and health of the American people amid the COVID-19 outbreak,” Kratsios said in a statement following the meeting. “Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort.”

Facebook and Google and did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The new development comes after The Associated Press reported that Israel had directed its internal security agency to track citizens infected with coronavirus through geolocation.

Tags Amazon cellphones Coronavirus Facebook Google Location data Microsoft Smartphones Social distancing Twitter

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