The newest tool governments are using to battle coronavirus is found right inside our pockets. The Verge has reported mobile carriers in the European Union are beginning to share location data from cell phones to assist in determining whether social distancing practices are being applied or not.
While this may seem alarming, the data being shared is anonymous and grouped into clusters. These regulations are thanks to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which limits the ways in which companies can share customers’ data.
Mobile data originating from Italy shows movement of consumers down by around 60%. Many attribute this percentage to the mandatory lockdown the country has faced.
Other countries are beginning to follow suit. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized the government to track the movements of those who have tested positive for the virus. In Taiwan, a system has been implemented that alerts authorities if a quarantined person is too far away from their home, similar to the use of an electric fence.
The United States has yet to implement any such measures. However, The Washington Post has reported the federal government is in “active talks” with large tech companies including Facebook and Google.
It is important to note that if a patient is uncomfortable being monitored, turning off location services on the mobile device will disable the tracking.