The Grapevine

Facebook Working On New Tools For Public Health Researchers Amid Pandemic

At the rate that the coronavirus is spreading around the globe, frontliners need all the help they can get. Most are now holed up at home to avoid contracting the virus, limited to engaging on social media and keep themselves up to date with the latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook, probably one of the busiest channels right now with most skimming for updates and information about COVID-19 has picked it up a notch. They have launched new tools to help gather data from users while keeping their locations anonymous. The purpose of this Facebook tool is to help determine if people are adhering to the social distancing measures and more.

The company's Data for Good Program is developing a Disease Prevention Map, something that could eventually come in handy for public health officials in pinpointing areas where the COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to occur. Among the features that the maps carry include co-location data, movement range and a social connectedness index, CNBC reported.

In an age where privacy has taken a hit, Facebook claims that the program will not in any way compromise their movement. Furthermore, identities will not be used - particularly for the people who are stubbornly not following social distancing and shelter-in guidelines.

“We think that Facebook and the wider tech industry can continue to find innovative ways to help respond to that crisis,” a company spokesperson said. “But we don’t think the help entails compromising privacy.”

For this program to work, users would have to opt-in and share the initiative. However, Facebook does have other ways to pick up information on account holders via other features such as check-ins. Tracking may sound a bit off in this case but it seems designed to purely help identify areas where the COVID-19 is spreading. And according to Facebook CEO Mike Zuckerberg, the project could be expanded if it proves effective.

“We’re starting to roll this out in the US this week, and if the results are promising then we will quickly expand this globally in the days ahead,” Zuckerberg said.

Aside from Facebook, Google and Microsoft are also doing their share of gathering data to map out how people are adhering to social distancing guidelines and more. Data collection is essential to everyone as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic rages worldwide.

Facebook Facebook has joined Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube in efforts to fight coronavirus-related misinformation. Pixabay

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