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How the U.S. government is starting to keep tabs on people's movement amid pandemic

March 28, 2020
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

The U.S. government has begun to use cellphone data to get a better sense of people's movement in up to as many as 500 cities amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The tactic is not meant to track individuals, and names aren't included in the data, but instead is geared toward figuring out where people might be congregating in large numbers as calls for social distancing and lockdowns become the norm across the country. In doing so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with state and local officials, hope to get an idea of how the coronavirus might be spreading so they can further curb its advance.

The data, which is coming from the less-regulated mobile advertising industry rather than cell phone carriers, could also provide information on whether people are complying with their area's shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders.

Despite the intentions of the efforts, such projects will undoubtedly raise concerns about government invasion of privacy, and, while even some privacy activists understand the necessity of such efforts, they want stronger safeguards in place. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and read more about coronavirus surveillance here at The Week. Tim O'Donnell