The U.S. government is in talks with tech giants, including Google and Facebook, to track and map the spread of the outbreak, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. For example, anonymous aggregated location data can be used to help experts understand people’s movement patterns and predict potential virus hotspots. Mark Zuckerberg then clarified that Facebook was not part of the technology companies involved in the discussions.
Nbc News and the Wall Street Journal followed up with the Washington Post report. But at a news conference on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied the news. He said the reports were “exaggerated” and denied that the company was in discussions with the U.S. government about providing any location data.
“We have not had any active dialogue with the United States or other governments, nor have we requested special access to this data,” Zuckerberg said at the meeting. He noted that Facebook has been implementing the Disease Prevention Map program for nearly a year, using its data to provide to health organizations around the world with the permission of users.
Zuckerberg also told reporters Wednesday that Facebook is not prepared to hand over people’s location data to any government on a large scale to track the outbreak of the coronavirus. “I don’t think it makes sense to share user data in this way, and we don’t offer options to engage users,” he says. “
Referring to Disease Map, Zuckerberg said the data is aggregated and anonymous, with the main goal of helping researchers determine how the disease is spreading. Zuckerberg denied that Facebook had discussed providing location data with the U.S. government, while Google said the search giant was looking into how to track the spread of the disease.
“We are exploring ways to aggregate anonymous location information to help combat COVID-19,” Google said in a statement. One example that can be used is helping health authorities determine the impact of social distances, similar to the way we show popular restaurant times and modes of transportation in Google Maps. “