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Data: Our Best Defense

As COVID-19 continues to progress we are going to have to utilize the data already being collected about all of us by Google, Facebook, and other internet companies. This is understandably going to raise some privacy concerns but in these times we are going to have to sacrifice some privacy for our security and especially for the sake of those more medically vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19.

As soon as someone finds out they’re infected we could have a system that flags them as so in the various internet companies’ databases. Then their past tracked movements could be reconstructed and appropriate people could be warned. Obviously, it would be impractical to warn everyone someone came into contact with, but these contact points could still be used in a data model that could be mined to spot patterns of spread. If testing were to get precise enough to detect a timeframe of infection this could also be fed into the model.

China is turning the tide on COVID-19 no doubt due to their heavy reliance on digital surveillance and data mining. We don’t have to go to the extremes of China but we must do more than we are doing now. The police in America are already using Google location data to pinpoint bystanders who may have been witnesses to shootings. Because so much data is being collected about us this could be rolled out retroactively when there was enough political will for it to be implemented.

There is no cure for COVID-19 so for now data is our best defense.