Google exploring using location tracking to slow coronavirus spread

Alphabet Inc’s Google is exploring ways to use location tracking information to slow the spread of the coronavirus by, for example, determining the effectiveness of social distancing. U.S. Senator Ed Markey, who has long championed consumer privacy, urged caution with the government’s efforts to partner with big tech companies to track the coronavirus.

Google location trackingReuters:

In a letter to Michael Kratsios, the White House’s chief technology officer, Markey cited a Washington Post report that said the government had discussions with Inc, Apple Inc , Facebook Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google, IBM Corp and other tech companies to discuss potentially using smartphone location data as a research tool as the virus spreads in the United States… He asked the government to describe how the data would be collected, anonymized and stored, who would have access to it and which companies were involved in the effort.

“This work would follow our stringent privacy protocols and would not involve sharing data about any individual’s location, movement, or contacts,” a Google representative said in a statement.

MacDailyNews Take: Pfft! “Stringent privacy protocols?” Give us a break, Google.

• Google and Facebook are quietly tracking visits to porn websites, even those in incognito mode – July 18, 2019

Google tracks users movements even when explicitly told not to – Associated Press – Monday, August 13, 2018

• Google tracked iPhone, iPad users, bypassing Apple’s Safari browser privacy settings – February 17, 2012

Facebook said in a statement that there was no agreement to share location data of individuals with the government.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s “no agreement,” Facebook says, not “we won’t share your location data with the government.”

Apple said in a statement that it does not track user locations. It noted that it has participated in White House COVID-19 task force meetings but is focused on telehealth and distance learning.

MacDailyNews Take: Google doesn’t need to “explore” location tracking. They wrote the book on it.

Only Apple respects users’ right to privacy. Only Apple.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759


  1. You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. — Rahm Emanuel, Obama Chief of Staff

      1. President Trump was correct: We did and do have it contained.

        You do not understand what it means to have a novel virus outbreak “contained.”

        “Contained” means controlling the outbreak and working to flatten the curve over many months. “Contained” does not mean eradicating the virus.

        The virus will be with us for many, many years. “Contained” means not letting it get out of control, overwhelming doctors and equipment, and letting it run its course through the population as we progress to herd immunity and a vaccine. “Contained” does not mean “prevent.” There is no preventing this. 60% to 70% of the population will be infected. Period.

        President Trump is doing an excellent job on this (although you wont hear that on the likes of CCN, MSNCB, or read it in the NYT or WP). He has a smart, capable team that he assembled.

        History will judge Trump well on this historic pandemic, even if TDS sufferers like yourself will never be honest with yourselves or with others.

        1. Wow. MDN facilitates non sequitur as long as it attacks political adversaries. Is there nobody left in the middle?

          Firsty’s denial continues. I thought this administration was making great strides this week finally coming to grips with the reality of the situation. Apparently the fawning red had brigade led by Head Troll First Whatever (forget about 2018) is still lagging badly on the reality front. One wonders how your heads must be spinning as you watch the guy who bitched about the prior administration’s bailouts now double down on the socialism, including not only bailouts but now also the federal government making direct corporate investments.

          This president was behind the pandemic curve consistently from the beginning, which is why extreme measures are being taken now. That is not my opinion, that is the opinion publicly stated by Dr. Fauci and several other officials at federal, state, and local levels.

          So should we do a round of “Whatabout” to protect Dear Leader? Well fine, let’s do that. Admittedly other nations were caught flat footed (Italy, Iran) but that doesn’t excuse the blatantly bad advice the president gave for weeks as he plainly treated the virus like a Chinese problem that would be “solved” with temporary flight restrictions. The US administration tone only changed when Italy, which actually has a very good healthcare system, was overrun with COVID-19 patients, with thousands dying in short order.

          But still the spin continues. U.S. Administration healthcare experts visibly disturbed by the BS the president spews at every opportunity.

          Declaring “TDS” incessantly is a sign that you have nothing to rebut the facts, you’re just here to lash out in defense of Dear Leader. You deserve a competent president, even if you are too stupid to realise it.

          1. The only “spin” I see here is you taking a still photo out of context. The full video of the press conference is here:

            55% of US adults approve of President Trump’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, An ABC News-Ipsos survey released on Friday finds.

            Trump’s approval saw a 12 percentage point increase from a similar survey released last week, as more Americans become attuned to the pandemic and begin to change their daily routines in response to the disease.

        1. How does this have anything to do with the subject of this article?

          “Less than Nothing” sounds like fancy rhetoric, but anyone with a brain can see how nonsensical you are.

          The fact that you’re paid to sling mud about presidential candidates on what used to be tech blogs shows how desperate Putin and his puppets are. Sew discord at every opportunity, troll. It’s all you can do.

          You can’t show good results on any objective measure, because The Don has none. No consequential new treaties, no great new trade deals, no increased international peace, no denuclearization, no sustainable economic growth, no national unity, no improved health or happiness for citizens. NOTHING. Surely if there was an objective achievement of any kind you would be able to show it for us, would you not? But you don’t. Because the truth is … you’ve got nothing. All you can do is attack old Uncle Joe, whose decades of embarrassing flubs are nothing compared to the current president. Bigly.

      2. I meet (used to meet, as of a few weeks ago) a lot of liberal media types. They fall into two camps: morbidly stupid or soullessly evil.

    1. The full quote…
      “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before. I think America as a whole in 1973 and 1974, and not just my view but obviously the administration’s, missed the opportunity to deal with the energy crisis that was before us. For a long time our entire energy policy came down to cheap oil. This is an opportunity, what used to be long-term problems, be they in the health care area, energy area, education area, fiscal area, tax area, regulatory reform area, things that we have postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity, for us, as I would say, the opportunity to do things that you could not do before. The good news, I suppose, if you want to see a silver lining, is the problems are big enough that they lend themselves to ideas from both parties for the solution.”

      Clearly he was not talking about “the left” taking over anything. Indeed, he ends wi his belief thatth a crisis can be used as a way to get both par (and the left and the right) to come up with ideasties to work together to get something necessary done.

        1. We might be energy secure (with more net exports than imports in most months), but we are not energy independent—US production and consumption are both thoroughly integrated into the world energy markets. When prices for Middle Eastern or North Sea oil go up or down, US prices follow. Similarly for the price of coal and natural gas. The trend towards American energy security has not just been driven by increased American production (a trend that goes back well before January 20, 2017), but also by the fact that an increased proportion of American energy consumption comes from renewable sources.

        2. Talking point: “True Energy Independence”


          The USA remains a net energy importer, as it has for decades.

          Did Orange Hero start the positive trend in 2006? No he did not. The fastest growing energy production of the last decade has been natural gas and renewables. Apple is all-in on renewables, which should mean something to you if you trust Apple to make good decisions.

          In the US, transportation fuel remains overwhelmingly imported, which is why long-term-thinkers propose that for actual energy independence, that Americans must choose less thirsty petrol guzzlers. Despite administration rhetoric, the slashing of fuel economy standards that were established a decade ago as job-creating requirements for bailed-out auto companies has worsened the net oil usage picture, not to mention localized pollution in urban areas where expensive utes (er, Sportless Utility Vehicles) now outnumber sensibly sized and priced saloons in your Walmart parking lots. Fastest growing brands are imported from S. Korea. Because orange dotard can’t establish universal standards with the rest of the planet, he does bilateral trade restrictions on a nation-by-nation basis and he’s too busy with China now. It will be interesting to see how deep your loyalty to this adminstration is if he lets Ford die, or if Ford is purchased by Geely or another huge Chinese automaker. Don’t pretend it can’t happen. US oil companies as well are feeling intense economic pain at the moment. They cannot compete with global oil prices. If Americans continue to drive their oversize vehicles, the oil they burn will most significantly come from Saudi Arabia. Good old monarchist friend Saudi Arabia, home of 9/11 terrorists and a murderous ruling price. What petrol station do you frequent that serves All ‘Merican fuels? Well gosh darnit, there isn’t one. Rugged tough talkin’ energy independence was just an illusion.

          Full energy detail here, if you actually cared about facts.

    2. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” especially if there is an opportunity to misquote, practice sophistry, blame Obama, dissemble and absolutely deflect from your hero’s two months of denial followed by…
      “No, I don’t take any responsibility at all”
      “I knew it was a pandemic before many many people”
      “It just snuck up on us”

      You’re firing blanks.

  2. This is how China tamped down the coronavirus in a couple of months. Nearly everybody in the PRC carries a cellphone rather than cash or cards to make payments. The Government has access to the location data. So, as soon as somebody was identified as having Covid-19, the authorities could locate everyplace they had been and everybody else who was at any of those places. The exposed parties were whisked away to quarantine (none of this “self-quarantine” stuff) and kept there until the incubation period was past without a positive test result. Until the all-clear, all of the quarantined person’s contacts were kept essentially under house arrest, while everybody else in the region was subject to strict shelter-in-place rules.

    We could do the same here, with assistance from Google and the cell carriers, but that would be a real test of how much liberty Americans are willing to give up for security.

    1. Not happening. People are going to get this regardless. Most will have a few days of flu-ish symptoms and recover. The idea is to spread it out to not overwhelm the hospitals with the vulnerable (elderly, smokers/vapers, asthmatics, cancer survivors with compromised immune systems, the obese, etc.). There is no total lockdown solution. We can work to flatten the infection curve until we get to herd immunity and a vaccine. Develop therapies and use effective therapeutic drugs ASAP.

      Any country that tries to a total lockdown will fail. They’ll get a huge spike as soon as it fails or they relax controls. Any country that does nothing for too long will overwhelm their medical system (see Italy).

      1. I live in Texas, where the state budget and much of the private-sector economy has been built with the assumption that West Texas Crude will slowly rise through $50/barrel. It is now trading at $30. The Mars offshore platform is selling at $16. Around here, cheap oil is just another nail in the recession coffin.

        While that is an interesting discussion, what does it have to do with Google generously offering to help Big Brother track us… for our own good, of course.

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