Facebook To Share Data While Ensuring Privacy To Combat COVID-19

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Facebook is again handing over user data, but this time, it's to help combat the coronavirus crisis. The social media giant announced that it is providing anonymous data about the user's movements and their relationships to researchers to better anticipate where the virus might spread. Facebook is helping understand the population movement in these crucial times.

Facebook To Share Data
 

Facebook To Share Data

The Facebook head of health, K X Jin and Laura McGorman of its Data for Good arm noted that the company would still protect people's privacy. A Facebook blog post explained that hospitals are working to get the right resources, and public health systems are looking to put the right guidelines in place.

better information

"To do that, they need better information on whether preventive measures are working and how the virus may spread," said Jin and McGorman, reports Reuters. Facebook will be providing researchers with co-location maps to show the probabilities of people in one specific place coming into contact with those in another. This might signal where new COVID-19 cases might appear.

A similar setup was launched by Google as well, where snapshots of users' locations were shared with various governmental bodies. The location data will also help determine if people are staying close to their home as advised during the lockdown or if they're moving about the city.

Facebook To Share Friendship Crossing
 

Facebook To Share Friendship Crossing

Additionally, Facebook is also providing an index of friendships crossing state or national borders to allow epidemiologists to forecast how the virus might spread. "Disease Prevention Maps aggregate information from Facebook, and we take additional steps to obscure people's identities and reduce the risk that anyone could be re-identified," Facebook said.

Facebook will also be launching a survey for health researchers to track COVID-19. The survey will help health researchers better monitor and forecast the spread of the virus. The survey - run by Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Center - will be used to generate new insights on how to respond to the crisis, including heat maps of self-reported symptoms, Facebook noted.

Protecting Privacy

Protecting Privacy

Facebook, unfamous for its privacy scandals, has vouched to protect individual privacy while sharing data. The Facebook Data for Good tools are designed to protect user information, and there are public guidelines on how the company responds to government requests for data. "We will continue to be transparent about our approach and consult with policymakers, regulators and other privacy experts about our practices," the blog post noted.

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