Facebook FB is expanding a program that grants researchers access to data about user movement patterns in an effort to understand the spread of coronavirus.
The company’s Data for Good program, which uses aggregated, anonymized data from Facebook’s apps to inform academic research, will now grant access to three new maps for forecasting the disease’s spread and revealing whether residents of a given region are practicing quarantine.
The company released Disease Prevention Maps including co-location maps, which illustrate the degree to which people who live in different areas are mixing; movement range trends, which show the degree to which people are staying home or going out; and a “social connectedness index,” which shows how likely any two people are likely to become Facebook friends, a measure of the strength of social ties in a given place.
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The company will also prompt Facebook users to participate in a survey from Carnegie Mellon University’s Delphi epidemiological research center that asks people to self-report any disease symptoms. The responses, which will be anonymized, could help researchers understand new hotspots as they develop or see where the disease has begun to retreat.
Notably, Carnegie Mellon will not share any symptom information back with Facebook. The social media giant has assured that user privacy guidelines are followed and that it will not reveal the identity of the person taking the survey.
While other projects require users to download an app or divert to a web portal, Facebook’s promotion of the Carnegie Mellon survey can instantly reach a portion of 1.65 billion daily active users on Facebook to collect data.
Facebook Joins Other Tech Giants With COVID-19 Trackers
Tech giants such as Alphabet’s GOOGL Google, Apple and Facebook joined forces with government bodies to help them track more coronavirus cases and also make people aware of COVID-19 through their platforms.
Alphabet has been making necessary efforts to combat this situation. Its health-care division called Verily recently launched a COVID-19 screening and testing website under Project Baseline.
On April 3, Google announced the release of its COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. The company is using location data gathered from smartphones to help public health officials understand how people’s movements have changed in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Google’s data does not include personally identifiable information or show the number of visits to any particular category. Facebook has already made similar information available to academic researchers.
Additionally, Pinterest PINS is working on its symptom tracking project called How We Feel available for both iOS and Android. The aggregate user data collected is securely shared with select scientists, doctors and public health professionals who are actively working to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Moreover, Microsoft MSFT Bing recently launched an interactive map that provides information on the spread of coronavirus. The map contains details about the number of cases per country, divided into the number of currently active cases, recovered cases and fatal cases. U.S. citizens can view state-by-state information.
Last week, Apple partnered with CDC, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to release a new COVID-19 website and an app currently available on the App Store in the United States to bring in more awareness about the highly contagious virus.
Meanwhile, Facebook, which has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company, established Coronavirus Information Hub in partnership with WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in an effort to make verified information about the pandemic available to WhatsApp users.
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