The U.S. government is in discussions with health professionals and technology companies such as Google and Facebook about possible ways to obtain insights from smartphone location data to fight the new coronavirus, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Sources said public health professionals believe collecting aggregated, anonymized location data could help efforts to map the spread of COVID-19, which has infected over 180K individuals worldwide.
Google said it had been in talks with other tech firms, health experts and government officials about ways to derive insights from location data.
"We’re exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against COVID-19," Johnny Luu, a spokesman for Google, said in a statement. "One example could be helping health authorities determine the impact of social distancing, similar to the way we show popular restaurant times and traffic patterns in Google Maps."
An official at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said the government is "encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for covid-19 modeling efforts."