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.
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 Amazon.com 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 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