POLITICO - Donate Your Data: The Covidseeker Research Project

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POLITICO - Donate Your Data: The Covidseeker Research Project

July 27, 2020

DONATE YOUR DATA: Americans are plenty wary of having their every move tracked in real time, even if it’s to fight Covid-19. But what about our past movements? POLITICO's Katy Murphy reports that researchers at UC San Francisco think they found a less intrusive way to get at this very personal information: asking people who were tested for Covid-19 to share location tracking data on their smartphones from around the time of their potential exposure.

That data can reveal “the actual timing and the very specific geolocation of where someone potentially was infected with Covid-19,” said Yulin Hswen, a computational epidemiologist. Multiply that by thousands of cases, and scientists could gain a better sense of how the virus spreads most easily — whether by taking public transportation, eating in a common area or just talking across the fence to a neighbor.

The Covidseeker research project is starting with Californians but could be expanded nationally. The researchers will share aggregated information and summary reports with public health officials, Hswen said, but retain access to individuals’ data.