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Facebook Expands Location Data Sharing – Covid-19 Researchers

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Facebook is expanding the user location data that the company gives to researchers and non-profit organisations that are trying to study the outbreak of the Covid-19.

The world’s largest social network now shares anonymised, aggregated location information as part of an effort to study disease outbreaks, & over 150 organisations now team up with the company in order to use that data for their research. Facebook is also adding new data for researchers combating Covid-19, and this includes information about if people are staying at home, & other details related to “the probability that people in one area will come in contact with people in another,” the company explained on Monday.

Harvard

At Harvard University, researchers are using this information to measure if government recommended “social-distancing” measures are actually doing anything helping to reduce the spread of the virus, which currently has already infected a confirmed 1.3 million people globally.

“We are putting in social distancing policies and currently we have no idea what they actually do in terms of subsequent epidemiology of the disease,” said Caroline Buckee, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard. “Policy makers want to know things like, ‘Which of these policies actually work? And how long are we going to have to do them?’”

Carnegie Mellon University

Facebook will also put a post  on top of users’ feeds in the US directing them to a Carnegie Mellon University survey that will ask users, among other things, to self-report possible Covid-19 symptoms. Facebook outlined that the survey is intended to “help health researchers better monitor and forecast the spread of Covid-19.”

“Researchers won’t share individual survey responses with Facebook, & Facebook won’t share information about who you are with the researchers,” the company described. The survey prompt is restricted to 18+ people only.

Maps app

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said last week it would publicly release mobility reports that describe anonymised data about where people are traveling to, in order to help researchers track the disease more accurately. The company’s Maps app is currently used by over 1 billion people worldwide.

 

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