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April 7, 2020 10:00 am

Tech giants are finding creative ways to use our data to fight the coronavirus

A Facebook co-location map for the United States. It could help illustrate the likeliness of the disease to spread.


An unexpected outcome of the current pandemic is that big tech companies, which have spent the past three years on the defensive over their data collection practices, are now promoting them. Over the past four days, Google and Facebook have unveiled new products that aim to improve our understanding of the disease’s spread and help public health organizations and nonprofits that are organizing response efforts. Those products are only made possible by the data we contribute with our smartphones.

The result has been a new kind of competition among the tech giants: who can come up with the most effective use of data to aid in the crisis.

Google’s foray into public health came on Friday with the release of its COVID-19 Community Mobility...

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