Smartphone companies have always gathered data on their users. But in the weeks since the covid-19 pandemic gained traction in the U.S., special attention has been given to data’s role in curbing the spread of the disease. Experts say data can be used to trace individuals’ contact with others who have tested positive for covid-19.
In a process known as “contact tracing,” location data can show where an infected individual traveled and what establishments they entered. Bluetooth signals from smartphones can help authorities see who an infected person came in contact with.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much data their smartphone (and smartphone apps) are collecting on them,” said Jason Hong, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute.