Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers and New Yorkers Fleeing Coronavirus Went to Next

Popular
Spring Break vs. COVID19: The Real Impact of Ignoring Social Distancing

By Eoin Higgins

A viral video showing cell phone data collected by location accuracy company X-Mode from spring break partiers potentially spreading the coronavirus around the U.S. has brought up questions of digital privacy even as it shows convincingly the importance of staying home to defeat the disease.


"First thing you should note is the importance of social distancing," tweeted Daily Dot journalist Mikael Thalen of the video. "The second is how much data your phone gives off."

The data in the video, which X-Mode fed into mapping platform Tectonix, shows people from one Florida beach over spring break departing the Sunshine State and spreading around the country, mostly to the Northeast.

The company also tracked people fleeing the outbreak from New York City.

"It's a glimpse into the power and scope of mobile tracking data, which the tech companies claim is anonymized to not reveal information about the owner of the device," wrote Newsweek's Jason Murdock.

According to Thalen's report on the data for the Daily Dot:

X-Mode states that the data used is "anonymized," meaning a cellphone's location is not linked to its user's identity. Tectonix took that raw data and honed in specifically on devices moving between 3 and 10 miles per hour in an attempt to pinpoint cellphone owners believed to be walking or traveling with bikes or scooters.

"I don't know what scares me more," tweeted CBC News reporter Roberto Rocha, "the spread of Florida beach revelers or that this data is being tracked."

In a report Wednesday on the outbreak, the Guardian revealed that the cell phone industry's international regulatory body the GSMMA is considering developing a global data-sharing system to track people from their devices in order to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Such a move would come with myriad privacy and security concerns and would be sure to generate intense backlash from civil liberty advocates around the world.

As the Guardian reported:

Until now the use of mobile phone tracking in the fight against Covid-19 has been restricted to national governments, which are either monitoring data within their borders or in discussions with mobile operators and technology companies about doing so.

They include the US, India, Iran, Poland, Singapore, Israel, and South Korea. The British government is engaged in talks with BT, the owner of the UK mobile operator EE, about using phone location and usage data to determine the efficacy of isolation orders.

The concept of an international mobile tracing scheme would go further, enabling authorities to monitor movements and potentially track the spread of the disease across borders.

The risks of letting state and corporate powers overrun civil liberties is real in a moment of crisis, warned the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn on Monday.

"We already see calls from companies seeking to cash in on this crisis for unchecked face surveillance, social media monitoring, and other efforts far beyond what medicine or epidemiology require," said Cohn.

While there is a need to keep safe and healthy for the good of the community, Cohn continued, that should not come at the expense of vigilance over freedom and civil rights.

"Right now, when real science is so often under attack, those of us who care about truth, health, and each other need to take seriously the things that science and medicine are telling us about how to keep this virus from spreading," wrote Cohn. "And we also need to be vigilant so that we come out the other side of this crisis with a society we want to live in and hand down to our kids. We can — and must — do both."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

Pexels

By Brett Wilkins

Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

U.S. returns create about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. manonallard / Getty Images

Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Climate Envoy John Kerry (L) and President-elect Joseph (R) are seen during Kerry's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State on February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian

John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.

Read More Show Less
Scientific integrity is key for protecting the field against attacks. sanjeri / Getty Images

By Maria Caffrey

As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.

Read More Show Less
A pair of bears perch atop Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park, about 100 miles from the proposed Pebble Mine site. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.

Read More Show Less