This Week in Data – April 17

This Week in Data – April 17:

Data is an incredibly powerful weapon in the global fight against COVID-19. We’ve collected the best resources and insights to help businesses take practical steps during this trying time.


Apple and Google work together on COVID-19 tracking…

The relationship between Silicon Valley tech giants is tumultuous, but what better time to put rivalries aside than a global pandemic? Apple and Google are now working on a tracking system to be built into future versions of iOS and Android. The idea isn’t so people can be tracked, but rather they can be notified if they are in close proximity to someone who has been diagnosed. As curves begin to flatten, it’s interesting to see how tech is being used in the next phase of suppression and elimination methods.


“This system probably can’t replace old-fashioned methods of contact tracing — which involve interviewing infected people about where they’ve been and who they’ve spent time with — but it could offer a high-tech supplement using a device that billions of people already own.”


…and Australia plans to use a similar system

Well, maybe not this exact system. But certainly one like it. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government is working on an app that would allow users to voluntarily take part in a tracking program. Right now, Morrison wants 40% of the population to take up the app. Whether that’s too ambitious or not remains to be seen – Singapore only has 20% of its population using the program.


“It is understood that in a stepped program, governments will consider allowing construction and manufacturing companies to reopen, but will not be able to offer much hope for service industries.”


How much data do we really need?

Harvard Law Today takes a good look at the ultimate question: how much data should we really allow access to during this time? In an interview with the head of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Urs Gasser makes this critical point: the current pandemic is only highlight just how much we need further work on worldwide privacy legislation.


“The use of consumer data in the U.S. is largely governed by the privacy policies of the various service providers, affording only limited privacy protections, as the past few decades have taught us the hard way. In my view, the current crisis further demonstrates the urgent need for comprehensive federal privacy legislation.”


“Data the new oil” takes on new meaning

Over in Europe, several countries have taken the initiative of new data collection and analysis techniques. But as Healthcare IT News points out in a fascinating article, the approach is very much like social distancing: private protection versus public good. In this way, some countries have even significantly ramped up their timeline for making data a much bigger proportion of their government operation.


“Some of these have been snap responses but they are generally positive and will pave the way for people to come together and say that we need a proposition for taking things further in the future. Through this crisis we are really understanding the power of using data differently – and the challenge of balancing Fair Data with privacy.”


Could data actually hurt our response to COVID-19?

So much good work has been done in fighting COVID-19 with information that we ought to consider a different angle: how much is too much? Human Rights Watch reminds us that new methods for tracking folks, like cell phone towers, are traditionally somewhat inaccurate. How much should we rely on them? They also don’t reveal complex information – like why people are moving and for what reasons.


“Big data’s blind spots could lead public health authorities astray, diverting critical resources from proven containment methods such as aggressive testing. They could also lead to draconian restrictions that disproportionately impact the rights of those under- or misrepresented by the data.”


That’s our wrap for this week. Thanks for reading – we hope you found it entertaining and informative. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these articles and anything else data related!

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Until next time,

Team Data Republic

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