Many governments in western democracies wish to use our mobile phones to track social-distancing compliance during the coronavirus pandemic. TechX Lab‘s William Hampton explains how the authorities can get the information they need while minimising invasions of personal privacy.
One of the goals of our research lab is to understand how technology can be used to better understand and improve peoples’ lives. In our studies we often collect mobile data, including mobile tracking information, and in the process have learned much about the advantages and downfalls of this emerging technology.
The world’s governments have also been examining mobile phone data, with a timely goal of tracking compliance with Covid-19 mandates. In contrast to our studies, in which we obtain informed consent, governments have been tracking populations at large and without notice—sparking concerns of privacy violations. Some have argued obtaining these geo-specific compliance data has been invaluable in guiding health policy action. They argue that by knowing that a certain area is non-compliant, we can predict with some accuracy that that area will be more likely to see a spike in cases and take critical early steps to address the anticipated surge in infections.
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