The US government has reportedly started tracking Apple iPhones in the country to monitor the spread of coronavirus, as a Wall Street Journal report. It has been mentioned that the US government plans to extract the iPhone’s data by using the geolocation data generated by online advertising shown on iPhones and other handsets as well.
The report adds that data from several million smartphones have already been gathered by the government officials for coronavirus tracking. It is yet to be seen of the step taken is similar to what was reported earlier this month wherein the US government was supposed to track the location from ads shown in Google and Facebook.
For those unaware, tracking location via advertisements allows the marketer to determine the area of the users and target them with regional advertising campaigns. It is also used to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign.
As per the report, the data going to the US government is said to be anonymized. This means it will show where a person has travelled but won’t reveal the identity of the person. Around 500 US cities might be a part of this project and the data could be used in monitoring the economic impact of the pandemic such as reduced vehicle movements and retail visits.
While the US government is said to be using the location data from advertisements in iPhones for something better, at the same time it is also said to be trying to make privacy infringement acceptable for regular users. The Information report (via Apple Insider) from December last year states that Apple has been fighting to make Safari browser advertisements more ineffective and have even been successful to some extent. But it looks like loopholes still exist.