Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied reports that the social networking giant is talking to the US government to share users’ location data from their smartphones.
NBC News and The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are tapping tech companies like Facebook for users’ location data.
In a press call on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said the reports were “largely overstated”, denying that the company was in discussions to give the US government any location data reports CNET.
“We’re not aware of any active conversations or asks with the US or other governments at this point asking for access to that data specifically,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook had a Disease Prevention Map programme for almost a year, which it provided to health organisations around the world using location data from people who opt in.
“I don’t think it would make sense to share people’s data in a way where they didn’t have the opportunity to opt in to do that,” said Zuckerberg.
“We’re exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against COVID-19,” the company said in a statement.
Google confirmed to CNN that it is also exploring ways to use aggregated, anonymized data to help in the coronavirus effort.
Apple said it has not been a part of the location data discussions with the US government.
The Trump administration is not the only country to consider technology-based tracking. Israel this week passed a proposal to track coronavirus patients on a far more detailed level, using location tools meant for counterterrorism purposes.