KEY POINTS

  • Contract tracing involves a person reporting a positive diagnosis of the coronavirus through an app, which then anonymously notifies users who have been in recent contact with the person. 
  • Facebook offers maps of population movement to researchers and non-profits through its Data for Good program.
  • There is fear that big technology companies could compromise privacy protections if they overreach. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom offered a positive assessment of Silicon Valley's role in moving the state's economy forward during the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview Friday on the CNBC program "Fast Money," Newsom cited Facebook, Google and Apple for their work with contact tracers and data to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re so pleased with the work (Facebook CEO) Mark Zuckerberg has been doing to help support the open-access of appropriate data in an anonymized way — in a non-individual or personalized way — including Apple and Google and others,” Newsom said.

"They are really going to help us with the technology platforms to help us supplement or support the efforts of the individual tracers — an army that we’re all starting to build and train to be able to ultimately move back into an economic point where more of our businesses are opening up every hour, not just every day and every week," he added.

Contract tracing involves a person reporting a positive diagnosis of the coronavirus through an app, which then anonymously notifies users who have been in recent contact with the person. Apple and Google would reportedly not collect location data from users, a key issue after big technology companies faced scrutiny for privacy practices.

Apple and Google announced on April 10 that the tech giants would "work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms."

In early April, Google announced Community Mobility Reports, which "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."

Facebook, meanwhile, offers maps of population movement to researchers and non-profits through its Data for Good program.

"Our Disease Prevention Maps are aggregated sets of information that health researchers can use to better understand how population dynamics influence the spread of disease. Researchers and health experts around the world have advocated for more of this information to respond to the pandemic," Facebook said on April 6.

There may be some lingering fears that such efforts by tech giants could compromise privacy protections if they overreach. 

"A well-designed tool could offer public health benefit, but a poorly designed one could pose unnecessary and significant risks to privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties," the American Civil Liberties Union noted Thursday in a commentary

The coronavirus has crippled economies around the world. Newsom said 3.1 million Californians have filed for unemployment since March 12.

On Friday, Newsom enlisted the help of former governors, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Disney Chairman Bob Iger, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer and others to join the Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.

California, which has a population of nearly 40 million, is the world's fifth-largest economy.