COVID Data and You
COVID Data and You
As we watch the use of data to track COVID and corresponding foot traffic, we have to wonder what else we are giving up. Recently several states have released an app to track COVID symptoms of neighbors and foot traffic near you. XMode Social used its data to track COVID from Spring Breakers in Florida. Foursquare is making available a free data set of COVID foot traffic. Let’s dig a bit into those data sets and the handling of your data.
COVID Alert NY — this app tracks your data anonymously. At no time does the app consume your name, address, or other PII. You can control the use of demographic data and health data (which is limited to COVID symptom data). As the person goes about their day, the app uses Bluetooth to sense when another person with the same app comes within 6 feet. Your phone exchanges a secure random code with the other phone to record that they were near.
XMode Social — Many people have already seen the video, which illustrates the power of location data. It shows the migration of Florida spring break revelers, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, spread the virus to other areas of the country as they return home. The location data come from X-Mode, the visualization is by Tectonix. As for the anonymization of this data, there are no clear answers found on their website. That may still be legal and acceptable, according to some.
Foursquare uses its existing foot traffic data and cross-referencing with COVID impacts. They use indexed foot traffic to demonstrate the relative decline in visits to different places, where visits on the first day are 100. We analyze data on a rolling 7-day basis to reduce the effects of foot traffic trends influenced by specific days of the week (for example, bars and clubs experience an uptick on Fridays and Saturdays).
Foursquare analyzes foot traffic patterns from more than 13 million Americans that make up our always-on panel. All of its data is either anonymized, pseudonymized, or aggregated. Further, it is normalized against U.S. Census data to remove age, gender, and geographical bias.
Essential things to Know about All COVID Data Apps:
- Your data is anonymous in COVID Alert.
- Learn about open source government-managed COVID data sources HERE
- Make sure you read the fine print. While these examples may not be using personal data and considering your privacy, there are certainly many who are. Sometimes this happens inadvertently, such as occurred between North Dakota and Foursquare.