Home > Public Domain Data > COVID-19 and Privacy Concerns

COVID-19 and Privacy Concerns

Geospatial technology and spatial data are being used to tackle all major world issues, including the current COVID-19 situation.  And because the COVID-19 situation is so tied to individuals and their movements over space and time, it is no surprise that needs for data bump into privacy issues.   A recent article entitled, “As COVID-19 Accelerates, Governments Must Harness Mobile Data to Stop Spread” with a subtitle of, Despite privacy concerns, “contact tracing” using GPS data may be our best bet to contain this large and fast-growing pandemic, was recently published here, via MIT Press.

In the article, the authors, Shekhar and Shekhar, from the University of Minnesota and the Yale School of Medicine, respectively, argue that smartphone-enabled location tracing without explicit permission from the smartphone owner needs to be implemented without delay to save lives.  The authors even lay out a specific plan for it to happen, and also comment that, “If smartphone trajectories of non-infected individuals need to be excluded for privacy reasons, the locations and times of potential exposure could be publicly shared without divulging patient names or sensitive medical information.”

No doubt that in the days and weeks to come, societies will have to make some difficult decisions regarding data and privacy, given the challenges before us.

–Joseph Kerski


  1. March 27, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets from The New York Times is an excellent summary of the current situation. (The article is not behind a paywall as far as I know, but may require a free NYT account to read.)

    • josephkerski
      March 27, 2020 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks Eric! And thanks for reading the blog. Feel free to share the blog essays with others! –Joseph Kerski

  1. April 15, 2020 at 7:58 pm
  2. April 23, 2020 at 8:03 pm

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