Facebook reveals today, 20th May 2019, that it is using its collection of data on its over two billion users to build maps that will help fight the spread of diseases. The tech giant announced that disease prevention maps are available to health organisations and NGOs. It will show information about population density and the movement of people to help understand human activity.
With these maps, health organisations can learn how epidemics and outbreaks appear and develop. This will subsequently help them to find the best ways to tackle them. The organisations derive a lot of the data is derived from data already collected by Facebook from its 2.38 billion users. The movement maps show how people are moving from place to place in a particular area. The network coverage maps, on the other hand, show the extent of cellular coverage in a region.
Facebook “data for good” against diseases
Facebook also uses outside data sources to produce maps. They use a high-res population density map obtained from commercial datasets. The disease prevention maps are the latest from Facebook’s humanitarian causes using data, called ‘Facebook’s Data for Good’. In the past, the social media giant had created maps to help first aid groups deal with natural disasters. But this time, they have expanded the maps to deal with health emergencies.
Facebook’s policy lead on Data for Good, Laura McGorman, in a media report, said that data on human movement is a very useful tool for health organisations. The insights gotten from the data by Facebook are a useful mechanism to monitor outbreaks. It can also help to proffer new information on how human movement influences the spread of diseases.
Facebook clarified that it is not selling access to the data. According to the company, this initiative is for non-commercial purposes. They are giving access for the new maps to a select group of partners. They include the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, UNICEF, Harvard School of Public Health and others.