Since then, data privacy has become a hot-button political issue. On Capitol Hill, members of both parties are working on comprehensive data privacy legislation, which could include provisions allowing better information sharing with the aim of improving public health. But those efforts have stalled because of the coronavirus emergency and the vagaries of an election year. 

“I don’t think what we want to do is wade into the waters of broad privacy legislation,” Rispin Sedlak said.

However, as the coronavirus spreads and deaths from COVID-19 continue to increase, lawmakers could be spurred to action on a more narrowly focused measure related to public health.

Anonymized data

Last week, Facebook said it would begin sharing aggregated, anonymized location data and high-resolution population density maps with researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, the Gates Foundation and others trying to understand how the coronavirus is spreading around the world.

A Google spokesperson told CQ Roll Call that Google has not shared any location data but that the company is “exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against COVID-19.”

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