Anonymized data about people in areas of “geographic interest” is being shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the aim of creating a portal of geolocation information for 500 cities across the country.
The report indicates the information will be used to determine how well people are complying with stay-at-home orders. The report says the information allowed researchers to detect that large numbers of filks were gathering at a New York City park, which spurred them to notify local authorities.
While the data is anonymized, privacy advocates want strong legal safeguards that will limit how the data can be used. Cellular carriers told WSJ that they have not been asked by the government to provide location data.
Other countries are also using cellular device data to monitor citizens’ movements to determine if they are complying with stay-at-home and other restrictions on movement during the pandemic. European mobile carriers have reportedly been sharing location data with health authorities in multiple European countries, including Italy, Austria, and Germany.
Earlier this month Israel passed emergency measures that allow Israeli security agencies to track the smartphone data of people with a suspected COVID-19 infection to determine other people they may have come into contact with.