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The U.S. government is using smartphone location data from the mobile ad industry to track people's movements amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

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Local governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received the anonymized data about people in areas of "geographic interest," with the aim being to create a portal of geolocation information for 500 cities across the country.

The information will be used to learn how well people are complying with stay-at-home orders, according to WSJ. Citing an example, the report says researchers discovered large numbers of people were gathering in a New York City park, which led them to notify local authorities.

Even though the data is anonymized, WSJ says that privacy advocates want "strong legal safeguards" to limit how it can be used, in order to prevent its use for other purposes. Cellular carriers told the news outlet they have not been asked by the government to provide location data.

The development follows reports of other countries using cellphone data to monitor citizens and see if they are complying with curbs on movement to defeat the viral outbreak.

European mobile carriers have reportedly been sharing data with health authorities in Italy, Germany and Austria, while at the same time respecting Europe's privacy laws. Earlier this month, Israel passed emergency measures that allow security agencies to track the smartphone data of people with suspected COVID-19 and find others they may have come into contact with.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: U.S. Government Using Mobile Ad Location Data to Track Compliance With Curbs on Movement
 
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DogHouseDub

macrumors 6502
Sep 19, 2007
415
966
SF
I take it you don't know anyone who might be on immunosuppressants or elderly? Or anyone who knows anyone who is? Or anyone who works in the emergency services?

Follow your local advice or pressure them into legally enforcing it.

Why do you need to know an "at risk" person? You can be asymptomatic for >1 week while spewing viral particles with every breath. Isolation, together with prophylactic masking, shouldn't require a government mandate.
 
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rcooked

macrumors regular
Feb 3, 2015
186
302
I would think Apple & Google could come up with anonymous data on this to provide the governments what they need. Not sure why they couldn’t. It is an interesting concept, and probably could be flushed out to help.
 
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deeddawg

macrumors G4
Jun 14, 2010
10,934
4,710
US
Folks forget that the cell phone companies have been keeping this data for a very long time.

I sat on the jury for murder trial, and the murderer's cell phone records were in evidence. Every time the cell phone made or received a call, the records showed which antenna on which tower had communicated with the phone. Thus they showed an approximate location based on direction from the tower sites as he moved around the county that day.

This was in 2010. With a MVNO carrier and a flip phone.

With today's smart phones constantly sending and receiving internet data, rest assured your location is being recorded whether or not you've agreed to anything with an app.
 
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Glideslope

macrumors 604
Dec 7, 2007
6,822
4,100
The Adirondacks.
Well with people largely ignoring the shelter in place orders, its justified.

The mayor of Boston is resorting to zip-tying basketball nets in the public courts in Boston to discourage people from playing.

Wont be effective. Had to remove all public hoops from the backboards here in NY State. Now they play a new game catching rebounds off the backboards. I really don’t see how to stop them. There are simply not enough resources to enforce such adolescent behavior.
 
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lkalliance

macrumors 6502
Jul 17, 2015
486
490
Why do you need to know an "at risk" person? You can be asymptomatic for >1 week while spewing viral particles with every breath. Isolation, together with prophylactic masking, shouldn't require a government mandate.
I think what he meant was that he was putting such people at risk, and if he knew anyone like that then he was putting THEM at risk.
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I'm of mixed feelings about this. Yes, it is important that people stay separate for a while. Yes, all it takes is a small number of people flouting the guidelines to potentially make it all moot. And, yes, I feel angry at such people. But on the other hand, I've thus far always been against government (or anyone's) use of cell phone location data for surveillance. This data is anonymized, but that the functionality of it exists means it could very well NOT be anonymized in another use.

That we CAN use this technology for this purpose doesn't mean we SHOULD do so (oooh, I just now realized as I was typing that I was pulling an Ian Malcolm; feel free to imagine that last sentence in Jeff Goldblum's voice). It's not the only tool at the authorties' disposal.
 
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maflynn

Moderator
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May 3, 2009
67,830
35,289
Boston
Wont be effective. Had to remove all public hoops from the backboards here in NY State. Now they play a new game catching rebounds off the backboards. I really don’t see how to stop them. There are simply not enough resources to enforce such adolescent behavior.
I'm sure, I was merely pointing out how people are not taking this seriously. I see neighbors having friends over their house. I understand going to a house, staying 10 feet away [outside] to shoot the breeze a bit but they're inside. I public path around deer island is always full. My kids asked a number of times, to go to deer island for walk, but I'm like absolutely not.
 
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DakotaGuy

macrumors 601
Jan 14, 2002
4,103
3,473
South Dakota, USA
Folks forget that the cell phone companies have been keeping this data for a very long time.

I sat on the jury for murder trial, and the murderer's cell phone records were in evidence. Every time a the cell phone made or received a call the records showed which antenna on which tower had communicated with the phone. Thus they showed an approximate location based on direction from the tower sites as he moved around the county that day.

This was in 2010. With a MVNO carrier and a flip phone.

With today's smart phones constantly sending and receiving internet data, rest assured your location is being recorded whether or not you've agreed to anything with an app.

Yes. If you want to know location don't go to Apple or Google just go to the phone carriers. They have it all whether you opted into something or not.
 
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lkalliance

macrumors 6502
Jul 17, 2015
486
490
I'm sure, I was merely pointing out how people are not taking this seriously. I see neighbors having friends over their house. I understand going to a house, staying 10 feet away [outside] to shoot the breeze a bit but they're inside. I public path around deer island is always full. My kids asked a number of times, to go to deer island for walk, but I'm like absolutely not.
I was at my local DMV a couple of weeks ago to renew my license. This was when local governments were just ramping up their guidelines, toilet paper was being hoarded, etc. So they had a policy at that point: only six customers allowed in this DMV office at once (it was a pretty small office). They took people's names and phone numbers, and you could wait in your car or go anywhere else until they called. Two hours later, it was my turn to go inside, and...the other five people in there were just standing on line, like normal. Spread out, darn it! That's why the limitation in the first place! So you don't have to be standing right next to each other! Gah!
 
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itsmilo

Suspended
Sep 15, 2016
3,985
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Berlin, Germany
knowing will do what exactly? Is everyone gonna get an electro shock through their phone if they don’t comply?

what if you live in NYC for example with lots of skyscrapers and therefore people living „at the same spot“ just on a different level? Last time I was in Manhattan, the GPS was jumping around like crazy in certain areas anyway
 
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Darth.Titan

macrumors 68030
Oct 31, 2007
2,800
548
Austin, TX
Folks forget that the cell phone companies have been keeping this data for a very long time.

I sat on the jury for murder trial, and the murderer's cell phone records were in evidence. Every time a the cell phone made or received a call the records showed which antenna on which tower had communicated with the phone. Thus they showed an approximate location based on direction from the tower sites as he moved around the county that day.

This was in 2010. With a MVNO carrier and a flip phone.

With today's smart phones constantly sending and receiving internet data, rest assured your location is being recorded whether or not you've agreed to anything with an app.

The type of data you're describing still has to be acquired via the use of a court order, at least in the US. The phone companies don't just pass it out to anyone who asks for it, and that includes the government.
 
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barkomatic

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2008
4,187
2,077
Manhattan
I think this is a good use of anonymous location data and I don't mind it. Perhaps officials can use to adjust policy in the future. Of course, I'm worried about non-anonymous data such as what Israel is implementing. However, is there also a law in Israel mandating that people carry mobile devices now? It's a simple matter to leave that at home if you don't want to be tracked. You can turn off location services, but these days I doubt there is truly a way to turn if off.
 
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