Often criticised for violating user privacy, Facebook uses mobile location data to help fight Covid-19

Using mobile location data comes amid intense scrutiny of the privacy practices of tech companies.

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Facebook confirmed it was sharing the data as part of its nearly year-old Disease Prevention Maps program.
SAN FRANCISCO: Infectious disease researchers are using Facebook Inc mobile location data to provide daily updates to U.S. cities and states evaluating the effectiveness of social distancing orders aimed at slowing the novel coronavirus.

The Covid-19 Mobility Data Network, a group of 40 health researchers from universities including Harvard, Princeton and Johns Hopkins, said that since mid-March its members have been sharing insights gleaned from the social media giant's data with California, Massachusetts and New York City.

Using mobile location data in the coronavirus fight comes amid intense scrutiny of the privacy practices of tech companies, which collect detailed information about people's interests on apps and websites, often to target ads.


Facebook and the researchers leading the project say they have overcome those concerns by aggregating the data several times over and funneling it through academics. The researchers share broad findings with state and local health departments, which do not receive any raw data.

Facebook confirmed it was sharing the data as part of its nearly year-old Disease Prevention Maps program, which has also aided efforts to increase vaccination rates in Malawi and track cholera outbreaks in Mozambique.

Facebook and the researchers leading the project say they have overcome those concerns by aggregating the data several times over and funneling it through academics.
Facebook and the researchers leading the project say they have overcome those concerns by aggregating the data several times over and funneling it through academics.

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Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told reporters last month that he would not consider sharing Facebook's data directly with governments.

The Mobility Data Network has become one of the first initiatives to harness mobile data for the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, an approach deployed early in places like China, South Korea and much of Europe but scarcely used so far in the United States.

With the virus already spread widely throughout the country, the research focuses on the success of measures designed to get people to stay home, as almost 40 U.S. states have ordered.

Using the data, which is stripped of identifying information, researchers provide insights like the average distance of trips users have taken in a city and the proportion of residents in each county that have stayed within their 600 square meter home "tiles."

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In New York, for example, researchers found mobility dropped significantly on the weekends but crept back up on weekdays, when many people - particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods - are still required to work.

The data can also show "if at first people stop moving but then begin to travel further once fatigue sets in," said Caroline Buckee, an epidemiologist at Harvard's School of Public Health who is among those leading the network.

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Measuring changes in mobility and correlating them with later hospitalizations can also eventually help determine how to roll back social distancing orders, said Buckee, who previously studied the spread of malaria and dengue using mobile data.

GRABBING LOCATION DATA

With the virus already spread widely throughout the country, the research focuses on the success of measures designed to get people to stay home, as almost 40 U.S. states have ordered.
With the virus already spread widely throughout the country, the research focuses on the success of measures designed to get people to stay home, as almost 40 U.S. states have ordered.

About half of the apps on Alphabet Inc's Google's Play Store and a quarter on Apple Inc's App Store use at least one service capable of grabbing location data, according to industry research firm Appfigures.

Smaller location tracking services including Cuebiq and Camber Systems are queued up to provide inputs to the research network, too.

Others in talks to receive location analyses include Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia, along with Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Clara and Kansas City.

Kansas City confirmed that it was considering taking part in the project, while the other government agencies did not respond to requests for comment.

Facebook is in touch with the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a spokeswoman said, but added that no analyses have been delivered to any U.S. federal entities so far.

Another coronavirus data initiative, the Data and Research Technology Task Force, is liaising with Vice President Mike Pence's coronavirus task force and includes employees from Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, said Josh Mendelsohn, who worked on disaster aid programs at Google a decade ago.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Although other countries have successfully used location data to warn contacts of those with infections, neither officials nor researchers in the United States have asked for such personal information, said Mendelsohn.

"Contact tracing is something that we were beyond weeks ago," said Mendelsohn. "They need something that shows how we are doing vis-a-vis social distancing, which statistically models what we are about to be in for, so as to predict patient load."

Remote Working 101: Work-From-Home Tips & Tricks That Will Help Increase Your Productivity
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The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the world and has brought about monumental changes in our lifestyle. While the impact of the pandemic has been mostly negative, a silver lining among the dark clouds is the way the pandemic has affected our work culture.

In the wake of the outbreak, several Indian MNCs and companies moved their operations to working remotely. As a large number of employees logged in to their office computers from their homes, their productivity was at an all-time high, which helped restore the faith of the senior management in the work-from-home (WFH) setup.

While most of us by now have become pros at working-from-home, as the popular saying goes, there’s always scope of improvement. We have compiled a comprehensive list of work-from-home tips and tricks that will take your productivity a notch higher and help you work efficiently.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the world and has brought about monumental changes in our lifestyle. While the impact of the pandemic has been mostly negative, a silver lining among the dark clou..
Read More

Starting with the obvious, when working from home, it is absolutely essential to set up an office-like space. No, it does not mean that one has to build a makeshift office, complete with a cubicle - it simply means having essentials in place.

For starters, prepare a checklist of all the things you need: laptop charger, phone charger that are important for smooth, uninterrupted workflow. Make sure you have them in place before you start working.

It is also advisable to keep a notepad and a pen handy so that you can jot down all the important points made in the next video call.

Then, you can also keep your water-bottle near your work-from-home desk to stay hydrated as you work your way through the shift. The key is to create an office-like environment that is conducive to your work.

Starting with the obvious, when working from home, it is absolutely essential to set up an office-like space. No, it does not mean that one has to build a makeshift office, complete with a cubicle - ..
Read More

Taking breaks while working from home is important as it gives you time to blow off some steam and give your mind much-needed respite in the midst of a stressful work environment. But, it is advisable to time yourself when on a break.

You can use apps such as TimeOut for Mac, Smart Break for Windows to time your breaks and manage your work schedule efficiently.

Taking breaks while working from home is important as it gives you time to blow off some steam and give your mind much-needed respite in the midst of a stressful work environment. But, it is advisabl..
Read More

Perhaps the most important tip to follow when working from home is following video call etiquette. As all your boardroom meetings shift to video calls, it is essential to look presentable and be a professional each time you Skype or Facetime with your team members.

For starters, dress appropriately. If you are in your pyjamas or loungewear, it is advisable to change into a professional attire, like a shirt or a blazer, paired with pants. Secondly, make sure that the room you are in is well-lit. Make sure the background behind you is not distracting. If you have a wallpaper with intricate designs, make sure you avoid it as a background as it may jitter on camera.

Lastly, do a dry run before you get on the call. Try calling one of your colleagues just to be sure that your mic and camera are working properly.

Perhaps the most important tip to follow when working from home is following video call etiquette. As all your boardroom meetings shift to video calls, it is essential to look presentable and be a pr..
Read More

This is perhaps the most critical part of remote working. When one is in the office space, it is comparatively easier to communicate with one’s co-workers and supervisors. However, when working from home, since your colleagues and manager are only available on Zoom or Hangouts, it is advisable to establish a proper channel of communication.

For starters, inform your supervisor of the tasks you are performing every hour and ask them to set proper deadlines for you.

If you are working on a project with a colleague, communicate with them clearly about the status of the project and the deliverables required. This will not only help build your supervisor’s trust in you, but will also help them keep a track of your progress.

This is perhaps the most critical part of remote working. When one is in the office space, it is comparatively easier to communicate with one’s co-workers and supervisors. However, when working from ..
Read More

Possibly one of the biggest blunders one can do while remote working is working from the bedroom. Usually, one’s bedroom is a hub of distractions. It is possible that you might get carried away and start watching TV or get distracted by your kids or pets.

The key to keeping productivity high while working from home is avoiding all the distractions, both digital and otherwise. As a result, it is advisable to work from one’s living room, sans distractions, by having an office-like setup in place.

Possibly one of the biggest blunders one can do while remote working is working from the bedroom. Usually, one’s bedroom is a hub of distractions. It is possible that you might get carried away and s..
Read More

At times, those working from home prefer to sit in the comfort of their mattress or lounge on sofas along with their laptop. On the surface, it might seem like there is nothing wrong with it, but this can severely affect your posture, thereby leading to back problems. Especially if you are on an eight-hour shift, you might end up with a severe back ache by them you call it a day.

It is, therefore, important to sit straight and maintain a correct posture, for the sake of your back. Keeping your spine and head straight and maintaining proper distance from the laptop screen is of prime importance.

At times, those working from home prefer to sit in the comfort of their mattress or lounge on sofas along with their laptop. On the surface, it might seem like there is nothing wrong with it, but thi..
Read More

Most of us working from home, depend on a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access company’s assets and shared drives. VPNs are traditionally known for slowing down the Internet speed, leading to large response times.

Hence, it is vital to have a sturdy Internet connection. Additionally, if the home Wi-Fi connection is shared by your family members, it is advisable for you to instruct them not to indulge in heavy Internet usage as it might impact your speed.

Most of us working from home, depend on a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access company’s assets and shared drives. VPNs are traditionally known for slowing down the Internet speed, leading to larg..
Read More

Digital distractions are a bane to remote working and so is ambient noise. As you work your way through the day, you might notice the background noise is taking a toll on your productivity. Especially in Indian households, distractions are aplenty. From pets barging into your room to your parents and spouse checking up on you from time to time, it can be hard to stay focussed.

Make sure the ambient noise levels are low, so your productivity is high. Additionally, you could consider wearing headphones or earplugs to keep distractions at bay.

Digital distractions are a bane to remote working and so is ambient noise. As you work your way through the day, you might notice the background noise is taking a toll on your productivity. Especiall..
Read More

When working from home, your boss is not breathing down your neck, but at the same time, you have to keep her updated of all the tasks you perform in a day. With no supervisor to keep check on you, you might end up losing track of time and miss out on some important tasks or deadlines.

To make sure such a scenario never occurs, you can prepare a task list every morning and stick to it. You can keep updating the list throughout the day as and when more tasks are added.

Set goals and time limits for each task. After you complete each task, cross it off the list. This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.

There are several apps such as Todoist, Toggle and TickTick that will help you stay organised.

When working from home, your boss is not breathing down your neck, but at the same time, you have to keep her updated of all the tasks you perform in a day. With no supervisor to keep check on you, y..
Read More

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