Leveraging Location and Mobility Data: Perils & Practices

Paper by Suha Mohamed: “…Mobility data refers to information (often passively captured) that provides insights into the location and movement of a population – often through their interactions with digital mobility devices (like our smartphones) or transport services. Sources of mobility data, while diverse, include call detail records from telecom companies, GPS details from phones or vehicles, geotagged social media data or first or third-party software data. 

Geolocation, a subset of mobility data, may be useful in shaping responsive courses of action as it can be leveraged in granular form to understand hyperlocal realities or, when aggregated, regional, national or international patterns. However, privacy concerns arise from the sensitive or personal data that may be inferred from these records and the often opaque conditions around its usage. The ongoing deployment of contact tracing applications, which largely depend on individual-level location data, have demonstrated extensive potential for misuse and surveillance….

Despite the surveillance and privacy concerns around the use of contact tracing apps and mobility data, it is undeniable that this data has immense public value and has helped officials understand the development of the COVID-19 virus and map its variants and waves. It has also been used to track: areas of mobility that contribute towards increased transmission of the virus, adherence to social distancing norms and the effectiveness of measures like lockdowns or restrictions….(More)”.