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Facebook collects user mobility data to combat COVID-19 spread

Facebook has announced that they will be collecting data about users’ movements and relationships in an effort to help researchers better anticipate the potential areas in which the coronavirus might spread.

According to a post by Facebook’s head of health KX Jin and head of its Data for Good arm, Laura McGorman, the social media giant has been using the data to created augmented reality (AR) maps through which they could anticipate population movement. They plan to use the data in an ethical manner through ensuring the protection peoples’ privacy.

The post read, “To do that, they need better information on whether preventive measure are working and how the virus may spread.”

In fact, last week, internet behemoth Google announced a similar initiative. Google said that it planned to provide a snapshot of users’ location data across the globe in an effort to give governments the insights they may need to ensure that social distancing measures are being implemented effectively to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook will provide researchers with “co-location maps” which would essentially highlight peoples’ interactions with one another in order to weed out any potential threat to the health of the rest of the area. This will also be achieved through data about “movement range” trends which will outline whether people are conforming to the social distancing and lockdown rules and regulation set by their respective governmental bodies.

The social media behemoth will also provide them with an index of friendships crossing both state of national borders to ensure the epidemiologists forecast how the virus could spread.

“Mobility data from Facebook’s Data for Good program provides a near real-time view of important correlates of disease transmission,” stated Daniel Klein, senior research manager at the Institute for Disease Modeling, in a post.

He also added that, “This data, in combination with other sources, allows us to make better models to inform public health decisions.”