Governments want to contain the pandemic — using data from your phone

Around the world, governments want to use smartphone data to keep COVID-19 from spreading


March 23, 2020

It’s 1 of the most important 1st steps in containing the spread of the new coronavirus. Find out who’s been exposed. Then find out where they’ve been.

Widespread testing is 1 way to pinpoint the virus — but it’s not the only way. Governments across the globe are increasingly tracking the spread of COVID-19 by using location data from smartphones.

It’s like Big Brother turned into Big Doctor

Countries are using the data in a whole bunch of different ways:

  • In the Italian region of Lombardy, the government is checking to see who’s obeying a lockdown order… and who’s bein’ a selfish stronzino by moving around too much.
  • In South Korea, the authorities went even further, using surveillance-camera footage and records of credit-card transactions.
  • In Poland, the government released an app that requires coronavirus patients to take geolocated selfies… or face fines. Smile, or else!

Here in the US, The Washington Post reported last week that the biggest tech companies are in talks to use similar data to understand people’s movements. Those efforts are still in their early stages, but the news gave privacy experts the creeps.

Your boss might be watching, too

Some companies are using digital tools like Sneek to keep track of their workers. Sneek has a “wall of faces” feature that updates with photos of people taken every few minutes. Zoom can also track your attention during a video call and rat on you if you zone out.

The good news? Wily WFH’ers are always one step ahead. People are looping video clips to fake paying attention in Zoom meetings.

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