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The U.S. government wants to track your phone to curb the spread of Coronavirus

With the stakes high, is privacy the trade-off for health?

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Image: Cabeau

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation, the government is working on new solutions for tracking and controlling the spread. One idea being floated around is using cell phone location data to track the outbreak, and the White House is already talking to tech companies to accomplish this.

The Washington Post reports that experts at Google, Facebook, and other big tech companies are in talks with the government to use anonymized location data so health services can track the outbreak and adjust efforts accordingly. It’s still in very early stages, with the project committee slated to present recommendations to the government in the coming days.

It’s an idea that makes sense, although it does butt up against civil liberties so they’ll have to be careful that the anonymized data isn’t misused. China had an app last month that let people check if they were in contact with anyone known to be infected, but that data was also apparently being sent straight to the police. Yikes.

Israel is similarly using cell phone data to track citizens, with a previously secret trove of location data that was being used for counterterrorism purposes. With the stakes high, is privacy the trade-off for health? How do we know the data won’t be misused once the door to using it has been opened?

Do you have any issues with this? Do you think this is the right approach? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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