Spain plans to use mobile phone data to track citizens during coronavirus crisis

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Spain plans to use mobile phone data to track citizens during coronavirus crisis
Police applauding health workers outside a hospital in Madrid.Photo: AFP

The Spanish government said it would use mobile phone location data to track people's movements and see how closely a nationwide lockdown is being respected.


"The goal is to analyse the effect which the (confinement) measures have had on people's movements, and see if people's movements across the land are increasing or decreasing," the government said in a statement.

Dubbed "DataCovid", the study will be carried out by national statistics institute INE with the cooperation of the country's main telecoms operators, it said.

The government said all the data it receives from the operators will be scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and will be completely anonymous, in line with the country's privacy laws.

Spain, a nation of around 47 million residents, imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 14th to fight the coronavirus, with people allowed out only to go to work, buy food, seek medical care and briefly walk their dog.


Restrictions have since been tightened, with non-essential workers asked to stay at home from March 30.

The initial two week period of lockdown has been extended until at least April 12th with the likelihood that it could be stretched even further and continue until the end of April.

Since the nationwide lockdown began, Spanish law enforcers have issued more than 270,000 fines ranging from €100 for minor infractions up to €600,000 for the most serious. 

Police forces have also arrested some 2,311 people with those offenders facing up to 18 months jail time for the most serious offences. 


While the majority of citizens have been observing the restrictions and are only leaving the house under the allowed exceptions, such as to buy food or medicine, to help an elderly or vulnerable relative, or walk the dog, some have been caught flouting the rules. 

The Guardia Civil posted this tweet to emphasise that even if it seems like fun and has the best intentions, people must not leave the house for any but the approved reasons.






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