Spain is Launching Mobile Phone Tracking to See if Lockdown Rules are Being Followed

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Mobile phones are being used to track people’s movements to try to curb the spread of Covid-19 during Spain’s State of Alarm lockdown.

 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.

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“The goal is to analyse the effect that the confinement measures have had on people’s movements, and to see what changes in movements are happening across Spain,” the government said in a statement.

Dubbed ‘DataCovid,’ the study will be carried out by the National Statistics Institute (INE), with the cooperation of the country’s main phone operators.

The government said all the data it gets will be scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and will be completely anonymous, in line with Spain’s privacy laws.

The idea is nothing new, as last autumn the INE announced that it had got the cooperation of Spain’s three biggest mobile companies to track the movements of people over four days in November, as well as on Christmas Day.

A day during this summer was also going to be used for the sweep, which was all about mapping the way people travel, in order to improve transport and public services ahead of next year’s census. 

The gathering of the data brought criticism over privacy issues.

The OCU consumers’ organisation warned ahead of the experiment that using a mobile phone’s location was itself personal data, and that keeping the details of the phone numbers anonymous was insufficient.

It said the data had to be grouped together in “aggregate form” to ensure the study was lawful.


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