This article is from the WeChat public account: InfoQ (ID: infoqchina) , author: Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tony Romm, Translator: size of Africa, from the title figure: the US drama “Silicon Valley”

The U.S. government is actively collaborating with Facebook, Google, and other technology companies and health experts to explore ways to use American phone location data to respond to new coronaviruses, including tracking people’s whereabouts to ensure they remain available A safe distance to stop the virus .

However, public health experts are skeptical. They are not sure whether these technology companies can aggregate the anonymous data and map out the epidemic. Because the project is still in its early stages, people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named, would not comment.

Vice President Burns held an information sheet at a press conference with the Corona Task Force on Monday. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

1. Knowing the whereabouts of users through mobile phones can help prevent epidemics?

The new coronavirus has infected more than 180,000 people worldwide. throughAn analysis of the whereabouts of smartphone users could be a powerful tool for health authorities to track down the coronavirus. But it may also be uncomfortable for some Americans, depending on how it is implemented, because it can be very sensitive when it comes to details about where people are going. Some insiders have revealed that even if the government does this, they will not build a government database.

In a recent interview, Facebook executives revealed that the U.S. government is particularly interested in understanding people’s sports data, which can be collected on mobile phones with the user’s permission. The tech giant has provided researchers with this information in the form of statistics in the past. For the prevention and control of coronaviruses, this may help officials predict the next outbreak and help them decide on the allocation of medical resources.

Google also confirmed late Tuesday that the company has had conversations with government officials, tech giants and health experts. Google says they are also working to tap the value of location data, especially for location information in Google Maps.

“We are exploring ways to aggregate anonymous location information to help fight the new coronavirus. We hope to help health authorities determine the impact of social isolation on the epidemic, which is different from displaying the best meal times for restaurants on Google Map Traffic conditions are similar during the hours. “The spokesman also emphasized in the statement that the cooperation” will not involve sharing anyone’s location, sports and contact information. “

An official at the (Office of Science and Technology Policy) at the

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said the government “has received Technology companies are lobbying that they want to use aggregated anonymous data to build key information for the modeling of new coronaviruses. “

The official added that this key information may “help public health officials, researchers and scientists raise their awareness of virus and disease transmission.”

On Sunday, a special task force of tech company executives, entrepreneurs and investors presented a series of plans to the White House on outbreak maps and telemedicine at a private meeting. Representatives from tech giants such as Apple and Google, investors led by Hangar in New York and well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway, public health leaders at Harvard University, and small telemedicine startups like Ro the company.

“We are still collecting work components”We plan to submit ideas, suggestions, and recommended actions to our White House within the next few days,” said Josh Mendelsohn, Hangar managing partner who helped organize the work.

But industry insiders either did not respond to the matter or declined to comment. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC) did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple Corp. said on Tuesday that it has only researched on issues related to distance health and distance learning, emphasizing that it does not collect iPhone users’ location information.

2. “US Government + Silicon Valley” under the spread of the epidemic

The unprecedented initial cooperation between Washington and Silicon Valley reflects the urgent action nationwide to stop the deadly outbreak. The disease has already led to business closures, stock market crashes, and students being unable to attend classes. It is now threatening the American medical system, and many patients will need urgent care in the future.

In the past week, White House officials led by U.S. chief technology officer Michael Kratsios called a meeting and asked to make full use of Amazon (Amazon) , Apple (Apple) , Facebook, Google, IBM, and other technology leaders’ technical expertise . The Washington Post (The Washington Post) reports that the government also requires social media sites to take active measures to control online plots about the new coronavirus epidemic Theory to reduce the public’s misjudgement of misinformation abroad caused by the panic and worry about the epidemic. The Trump administration has begun exploring partnerships with technology companies to better support millions of Americans in improving telework and telemedicine services.

But the partnership between the government and companies is not so smooth.

On Friday, President Trump announced that Google would develop a website product so Americans could learn how to perform a new coronavirus test. This is different from Google’s original statement. In its statement, Google only plans to launch a service with limited functionality for California residents. However, Google eventually stated that it will launch this site to provide information services for patients across the United States.

On Monday, White House leaders, technical experts and health officials issued a unified statement. The statement said the government has opened about 29,000 research papers on the new coronavirus on its website. These papers are completely open, and the website allows artificial intelligence tools for the technology industry to (they can scan and analyze data together) Discover new insights about viruses.

Kratsios said in a statement: “The rapid action of U.S. technology companies is critical to preventing, detecting, treating, and developing solutions for new coronaviruses.”

During the same week as new initiatives in Washington and Silicon Valley, dozens of engineers, executives and epidemiologists issued an open letter calling on companies to take tougher steps to combat the new coronavirus. Specifically, they encouraged Apple and Google to adopt a “privacy protection” feature that would help doctors determine who has been in contact with patients who have been subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

“Tech companies have taken important actions, such as closing offices in affected areas and displaying custom search results in user-generated content. But we believe that there is a lot more that Silicon Valley can do before the epidemic is brought under control. . “

3. “If technology violates privacy, it may put more lives at risk”

Smartphones regularly send their location information to wireless carriers, and by the way to some technology companies, including Google and Facebook, or some of their services may not work properly. Apps that provide weather forecasts, ride-hailing services, and ordering items also collect user location information. Some people also sell this information to data mining companies to get business opportunities from it.

Privacy defenders often object to this commercial use of location data, and they call for stricter laws to govern its use. Recent news about Israel’s plan to use location data to help track the new coronavirus has also sparked heated discussions about the use ofThese data are used to stop the spread of the disease and provide medical assistance to infected people. How to comment legally and morally? ”

“It’s difficult to strike a balance between privacy protection and epidemic policy,” Stanford Law School (Stanford Law School) (Center for Internet and Society) Privacy Director Al Gidari wrote on twitter last week. “This is not a law school exam. Technology can save lives, but improper privacy violations could put more lives at risk.

In 2013, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) employee Edward Snowden publicly disclosed that technology company data was published in the National Security Agency’s (NAS) The role of Silicon Valley in monitoring activities is even more sensitive to these issues, because after that, these companies have been under severe public pressure. The relationship between technology companies and government officials has been very tense in the years since, and it is only gradually improving.

Former US Federal Trade Commission (Federal Trade Commission) Chief Technology Officer Ashkan Soltani has reported Snowden’s news as a reporter. He Said, “When it comes to national security issues, privacy issues are first affected.”

In seeking to fight this new coronavirus, the U.S. government has no plans to collect and maintain a database of Americans’ whereabouts. U.S. officials are also skeptical of the effectiveness of the data: Can the company’s massive geographic data help epidemiologists find patterns and find vulnerable groups? Can it help identify areas at risk, such as stressful hospitals?

4. How to use data is a tricky issue