Aggregated mobility data could help fight COVID-19

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Science  10 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 145-146
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8021

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  • RE:
    • Nina Martin, CEO, Public Health United; PhD Assistant Scientist, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
    • Other Contributors:
      • Tom Cummings, Economist, startup exec
      • Derek Yimoyines, Software engineer
      • Norman Croan, Software developer

    Existing consumer mobile technology can be used in a privacy compliant and anonymous way to identify at risk patients and populations, help public health officials identify disease hotspots, and forecast where future outbreaks may occur.

    Current consumer mobile technology and privacy policies can be leveraged in order to create ongoing permissions-based datasets.

    Mobile application developer agreements with Google and Apple allow for apps to be developed that use mobile phone application programming interfaces (APIs) to share location data on an opt-in basis. Consumers explicitly permit sharing their latitude and longitude and data is matched to an anonymous mobile application identifier (MAID) from either Apple (IDFA) or Google (GAID). If a user’s email or name is not requested, there is no Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Personal Health Information (PHI) at risk, even if a consumer opts to share their disease status.

    We built an application that does this. Users choose to download a mobile application and then explicitly choose to share their location data on an on-going basis. They choose to select their disease status (symptomatic, positive, etc.) and have the option to change that status. Their location data and disease status is added to an anonymous database. Other users can be alerted if they have interacted with a mobile device owned by a self-identified positive patient without being told who that person is and public health offi...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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