Facebook has begun expanding its Data for Good initiative, which gives researchers access to data on movement patterns, focusing on data that can help understand if the measures taken to combat the coronavirus disease pandemic are working.
Until now, the company led by Mark Zuckerberg had been sharing maps of the population movement that researchers and non-profit organizations are using with the scientific community to better understand how this health crisis is unfolding.
The maps created by Facebook are intended to reveal whether people follow the instructions of the authorities and to advance how the coronavirus could move across countries and the world.
The novelty, they have reported from Facebook, is that now they are going to offer you three new types of maps made from location data of its users. Aggregated data, they emphasize, “to protect people’s privacy.”
Disease prevention maps made in Facebook
“Co-location patterns, like these in Italy, can help disease modelers determine how COVID-19 might spread.”
The disease prevention maps that Facebook elaborates are aggregated sets of information that health researchers can use, they explain from the company, “to better understand how population dynamics influence the spread of the disease.”
Maps that, as in the case of the map of Italy that precedes these lines, reveal the probability that the inhabitants of one area will come into contact with people from another. This information, crossed with other types of data, could help identify where new cases of COVID-19 may appear with greater probability as soon as movement restrictions are lifted, for example.
Maps can help identify where new COVID-19 cases may be more likely to appear as movement restrictions are lifted.
“Range of motion trends, like these for Brazil, show whether people in different regions are visiting many areas.”
Another of the maps that Facebook is sharing with the scientific community are those that reveal the trends of the range of motion. In essence they show at a regional level whether people from that place tend to stay close to their home or, on the contrary, usually move beyond their surroundings.
This information, limited in time in periods of mandatory confinement, for example, could show whether the rules are being effectively complied with.
The Social Connectivity Index, one of the maps created by Facebook, “can help epidemiologists predict the probability of the disease spreading.”
By last, Facebook has created a third type of map that shows what they have called the social connectivity index. These maps show friendships of people in other regions and countries based on the data from the platform. That, they say from the company, “can help epidemiologists forecast the probability of the disease spreading.”
The American technology company, with a long history of controversies around privacy, ensures that in addition to using only aggregated and, therefore, anonymous data, it has taken additional measures to make the hiding of people’s identity greater, thus reducing the risk of identifications.