Yesterday, April 7 2020, the senator Markey (Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) sent a letter to Google regarding its so-called Covid-19 Community Mobility Report. In their letter the senators request information and ask a number of questions to the big tech-company.
According to the latest of Google’ statements the project only employs users’ location data in an anonymized and aggregated way in order to provide an accurate insight of the populations’ movements during the pandemic.
It must be stated, that the senators congratulate Googles´ efforts to help societies worldwide to fight the current pandemic, putting at their disposal invaluable tools which will be informative when decision making. Nevertheless, both agree that the giant tech must be cautious when assessing measures in order not to leave empty the meaning of users´ right to privacy.
It is important to bear in mind that users’ location data could go hand in hand with other sensitive data about the subject, such as religion, place of employment or political preferences. For that reason the senators strongly recommend the company assess properly the interests at stake, and strike a fair balance between them.
Here are some of the questions putted forward by the senators to the company:
- “Does Google plan to share with any government entities, researchers, or private sector partners any users’ coronavirus-related personal data or pseudonymous information”.
- “Does Google plan to use datasets other than Location History for its Community Mobility Reports?”
- “What measures has Google undertaken to ensure that the trends detailed in the reports are representative of the entire population of an area, including non-Google users, those without smartphones, or individuals that have opted out of Location History?”
- “Does Google expect that the Community Mobility Reports to be accurate for more rural or less connected communities?”
- “What guidance has Google provided to public health officials about how to interpret the reports, including how Google accounts for common social patterns and categorizes locations?”