TR Daily Senators Ask Google About Location Data Use for COVID Project
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Senators Ask Google About Location Data Use for COVID Project

Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), both members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, have asked Google LLC to provide details on its project to use aggregated and anonymized location information from users’ devices to develop reports on community level movements during the coronavirus pandemic, when people are being urged or directed to stay home.

“As the United States and countries across the globe combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both the public and private sectors must proactively pursue innovative solutions to this public health crisis. Those solutions, however, cannot come at the expense of individuals’ personal privacy,” the senators said in a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, dated today.

“You have assured the public that, as part of this [COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports] project, you will not make available any personally identifiable information, and that your reports will be available only for a ‘limited time.’ As Google moves forward with this project and any other efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic, we urge you to prioritize your users’ privacy and build on the existing privacy policies you have established for this initiative,” they added.

The senators asked for a response by April 14 to a series of questions, including whether Google plans “to share with any government entities, researchers, or private sector partners any users’ coronavirus-related personal data or pseudonymous information”; whether it plans “to use datasets other than Location History for its Community Mobility Reports”; whether it plans to report data at a more granular level than counties; and what measures it “has undertaken to ensure that the trends detailed in the reports are representative of the entire population of an area, including non-Google users, those without smartphones, or individuals that have opted out of Location History.”

They asked whether Google expects “that the Community Mobility Reports to be accurate for more rural or less connected communities” and what guidance it has “provided to public health officials about how to interpret the reports, including how Google accounts for common social patterns and categorizes locations.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress Privacy Covid19

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