01:26 GMT26 May 2020
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    According to Google, it is generating “Community Mobility Reports” to “chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.” The purpose of doing so, Google claims, is to see how global communities are responding to the coronavirus, which in turn can help public health officials make “critical decisions to combat COVID-19.”

    MacLeod told hosts Jamarl Thomas and Bob Schlehuber on Thursday that US President Donald Trump “is saying how it [Google] is working with all these governments around the world to try to slow the spread of the pandemic by using location services to track people. And really, I see why they are doing it, but really this is pretty much the only justification for that technology possibly existing, because it’s the only sort of application of it which isn’t completely nightmarish when you start looking at it.”

    “Google ultimately uses that to track us, to sell us more and more things, and it often works with quite repressive governments as well to help them track people … this instance of the coronavirus is really opening up a window into how much Google knows about us and how much these big companies, big tech companies really have a big control over our lives” MacLeod added. “Most people probably don’t even know of having consented to their data being included in this.”

    According to Google, the Community Mobility Reports will not include any “personally identifiable information, such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement.” In addition, the reports will only be aggregated using the information of people who have turned on the “Location History” setting on their smartphones.

    “People who have Location History turned on can choose to turn it off at any time from their Google Account and can always delete Location History data directly from their Timeline,” Google claims.

    In an article titled “Google’s Dystopian Crisis Tracking Could Be Straight out of George Orwell’s ‘1984'” published in MintPress News on Wednesday, MacLeod points out that many civil liberties groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have expressed concern over Google’s tracking of users’ locations. 

    “Experts will often be working within private companies with proprietary access to the data. Even if they make all the right choices, the public needs to be able to review these choices because the companies are sharing the public’s data,” the EFF noted, urging Google to release its entire tracking methodology to the public.

    According to MacLeod, Google’s data collection may have disturbing ramifications and could potentially be used for immoral purposes. 

    “Whenever you’re offered a free service on the internet, that’s not the product. We are the product … and this goes even further. For instance, nowadays, the technology exists that Google, for instance, takes information from your Fitbit. It knows your heart rate, so it can tell if you’re hungry or thirsty, and if you’re passing a bakery or a big supermarket, it can geolocate and micro-target ads right to your phone, saying, ‘There's an offer on Coca-Cola,’” MacLeod explained. 

    “Unlike the government, where we at least have some say over what goes on, there’s really nothing we can do to hold enormous corporations like Google accountable,” he added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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