This time, a state is spying on its citizens for their own betterment, perhaps. And this time, WSJ says, it is extracting data from the mobile ad industry – not from the carriers, in a bid to track Americans’ movements during the COVID-19.
The motive is to create a state’s portal with geolocation information from some “500 cities“, to gauge how people are complying with the home-quarantined orders. One successful attempt of this endeavor was when researchers discovered a large gathering of masses in New York City Park, and duly notified the local authorities.
Even the use of anonymized data raises a lot of privacy concerns, and activists demanding limits on how data can be used for other purposes, WSJ says.
However, the US is not the first country to do so. In the EU, mobile carriers reportedly shared data with health authorities in Italy, Germany, and Austria. Israel authorized the use of cellular location data to track the virus, says The New York Times.
China’s tracking system and Taiwan’s e-fence, both alerts officials when a quarantined person is far away from home. South Korea used the mobile phone location to create a map of COVID-19 patients in a bid to track how people might have been exposed.
Cellular carriers in the US have not been asked by the government to provide location data. However, the Washington Post reported on March 17th that tech giants like Facebook and Google are in talks with the federal government regarding location data from phones.