By Dr Elif Mendos Kuskonmaz, Portsmouth University and Professor Elspeth Guild, Queen Mary University of London
In 2017, BBC launched an app called ‘BBC Pandemic’ as part of a nation-wide experiment in the UK that collected data of volunteers who used the app to model how an infectious disease like flu would spread and affect people living in the UK. The app collected volunteers’ location data, user profiles, user encounters, from which researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine extracted data (age, gender, location patterns) and built a mathematical model addressing for example questions such as the fatality rate. A documentary about the experiment aired in 2018, showing the audience a glimpse of how data might be central to respond to the spread of infectious disease.
As the Covid-19 pandemic ravages the world, the value of data has come to the forefront of policies to contain the spread of the virus and allow healthcare providers and researchers to exchange data. Examples range from using mobile applications to track contacts of people who have tested positive or to allow app users to track their symptoms to accessing telecommunications and internet service provider data to monitor and control population movement. In this blog, we aim to give our tentative observations on the controversy surrounding the emergent need to respond pandemic and data protection rules.Continue reading