US government and Big Tech may use smartphone location data to battle coronavirus

The United States government is in talks with Facebook, Google and other tech companies and public health experts about ways they could use smartphone location data to battle the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

According to report in The Washington Post, public-health experts wondering if the private sector could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could use to track the spread of infections.

With the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 196,000 people and killed over 7,800 worldwide, being able to analyze trends in smartphone owners’ whereabouts could be extremely useful for authorities.

However, given the privacy implications, not everyone may be in favor of such a tool. Multiple sources told the Post that — if plans proceed — the tech firms are not building a government database.

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In recent interviews, Facebook executives told the Post that the U.S. government wants to understand patterns of Americans' movements, which can be gleaned through data the company collects from users who allow it.

“We’re encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts,” an official with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to the Post.

Fox News reached out to Facebook and Google for comment on this story.