One third of world population is at home during this Covid-19 pandemic and governments are still struggling to control the spread of the virus. However in some countries, the governments have been relatively successful in arresting the spread and invariably we can see one common factor – the use of location data.
How is it possible and what’s the use?
Since mobile phone users in the world rose to 4.78 billion in 2020 of which 3.5 billion are smartphone users, it is easy to get their location data. With aggregated location data available with mobile service providers or GPS based service providers, the government can easily track movement of people and alert them in high risk red zone areas.
Analysing location data help in surveillance and giving warnings to Covid patients and public at large. Aggregated data also helps in identifying Hotspots of the pandemic. This technique was successfully used in South Korea where the Government was able to ensure strict quarantine of positive patients. Now the patients and death rate in South Korea is very low as compared to other countries.
GPS and Mobile phone location.
As discussed earlier, location data can be analysed by using Global Positioning System and Mobile phone tower location. Initially European nations mainly used the location data available with Telecom service providers, while GPS data was used by countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan. Tracing with GPS data was found to be more effective; hence European countries also switched to the use of GPS data. For example, Spain introduced an app named ‘STOP COVID-19 CAT’, Germany introduced ‘Geo Health app’ and India introduced ‘Arogya Setu app’
Human rights and Data privacy
Using location data is an advantage to the control the pandemic. But there are some human rights and data privacy issues related with this. Lawyers and human rights activists raised some questions regarded with this issue. The major concern is that, if this activity continues then it will violate civil rights. In Germany, the Deutsche Telekom handed 5GB of Customer data to authorities. Also New York state implemented a law which permits the Governor to issue emergency response to overrule local regulations. In India, opposition party raised its concern over using ‘Arogya Setu app’. It can be seen that the usage of this data has advantages in this globalised world, but data privacy issues are there and governments have to ensure transparency and privacy compliance in using it.