Facebook Lets Researchers Use Aggregated Location Data to Understand Coronavirus Spread


Facebook announced that they are offering new tools to help researchers and non-profits understand the coronavirus crisis even better. This part of their Data for Good program where they offer maps to researchers and non-profits to better understand this crisis using aggregated data.

Facebook’s Disease Prevention Maps are quite interesting. There are three new types of Disease Prevention Maps that will help in disease forecasting efforts and protective measures.

Co-location maps reveal the probability that people in one area will come in contact with people with another, which helps to illuminate where COVID-19 cases might appear next

Movement range trends show at a regional level where people are staying near home or visiting many parts of the town. This helps in providing insights into whether preventive measures are headed in the right direction

Social connectedness index shows friendships across states and countries which helps epidemiologist forecast the likelihood of disease spread

Facebook says that these disease prevention maps aggregate information from the site and they take “additional steps” to obscure people’s identities and reduce the risk of anyone being re-identified.

Facebook is also using classic surveys in the COVID-19 virus fight. A prompt on Facebook which encourages people in the United States to participate in a voluntary survey that is designed to help health researchers identify COVID-19 hotspots earlier.

This move by Facebook to share their aggregated data in form of maps is quite similar to what Google is doing. Google recently came up with a website that revealed that Kenyans have stayed more at home due to the coronavirus.