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COVID-19: Facebook to share users data to fight pandemic

Photo: Reuters

The social media giant Facebook has announced its decision to provide anonymous data on users movements and relationships. This will help researchers to better anticipate places where COVID-19 might spread.

According to a Facebook post by its head of health KX Jin and Laura McGorman, the company is enhancing map on “population movement” with tools, while maintaining ways to protect privacy. “Hospitals are working to get the right resources, and public health systems are looking to put the right guidelines in place,” they said.

Announcing a similar move last week, Google said it would share pictures of users’ location data to help governments worldwide to find out social distancing measures are to control the current pandemic.

Facebook is using tools like co-location maps to show people in one particular area into contact with the other, signalling where COVID-19 cases might come up. The company is also sharing an index of friendships to allow researchers forecast how the virus might spread.

“Mobility data from Facebook’s Data for Good program provides a near real-time view of important correlates of disease transmission,” senior research manager Daniel Klein, Institute for Disease Modelling said in the post.