Facebook: Italian Ministry seeks to leverage big data with help from Facebook and telcos
A task force at the Italian Ministry of Innovation, in collaboration with the University of Pavia to leverage big data technologies to deal with COVID-19, after the WHO advised governments that lockdowns alone are not enough, and that testing, isolation, and contact tracing are crucial. The effort is beginning with anonymised data provided by Facebook; Italian telcos including Tim, Vodafone, Wind Tre, and FastWeb, via their Asstel trade association, have also offered anonymous datasets aggregating users' movement to help with contact tracing or other forms of monitoring. As far as Wired could ascertain, the programme aggregates data in the hands of health researchers and non-profit organisations that have signed licensing agreements with Facebook in Italy. The Facebook dataset also includes information on movements from north to south on the night of 7 March, when Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that Lombardy and 14 other provinces would be closed. Luca Bolognini, the president of the Italian Privacy Institute, expressed concern that although the EDPB has confirmed that GDPR allows for a loosening of the rules in the case of a public emergency, there is no automated control system that would trigger to restore usual protections and destroy the collected information at the end of the emergency.