The US government is allegedly attempting to track the coronavirus pandemic by taking advantage of geolocation data generated by online advertising shown on iPhones and other smartphones, intending to learn how the virus is spreading throughout the country.
On Wednesday, it was announced a collection of mobile carriers in Europe will share customer location data with the European Commission to monitor the spread of the coronavirus.
On Saturday, a report surfaced suggesting a similar program is being carried out in the United States, but in a slightly different manner.
It is unclear if the effort is linked to a March 17 report about the US government discussing the use of location data sourced from Google and Facebook for similar efforts. In that instance, there was the suggestion of anonymized location data being handed over to map the spread of the outbreak, allowing experts to understand patterns of people's movements and to predict probable hotspots for viral activity.
Rather than being sourced from the carriers directly, as with the European program, the US version acquires its data from mobile advertising trackers. An area that Apple and privacy advocates have fought against, the tracking usually allows a marketer to determine where customers physically go to, which can allow for regionalized targeted advertising campaigns to run, as well as to monitor a campaign's effectiveness.