Google, Facebook working with US government on civil liberties-busting location database to “combat coronavirus”

Google, Facebook working with US government on civil liberties-busting location database to “combat coronavirus”

Even in times of global crisis, we must maintain our civil liberties. While many if not most of us are taking safety precautions like social isolation in the face of COVID-19, we must be vigilant in our defense of our civil rights.

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. government, in partnership with Facebook, Google and others, is looking to create a database of location information for people in the country – based primarily on information provided by the tech giants.

This information could be useful in trustworthy hands. In aggregate and without personally identifying information, it could help researchers track cells of infections. Anonymizing location data isn’t as easy as removing the name or phone number of the people tracked, though. Patterns in routes can give away where someone works, lives and regularly frequents. Multiple stories by the NY Times last year exposed how this data is exploited by the government and advertisers.

We know that the US government, with its multitude of spy programs aided by private corporations, is not trustworthy. And as a result, these companies – which seek profit and favor from the government – are not trustworthy.

Real plans to study and track the COVID-19 crisis need to be made by public health experts, not government and companies that will us any excuse to limit our rights.