The U.S. government has been communicating with big tech companies such as Facebook and Google to discuss the possibility of using location data from smartphones to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The government could use the location data gathered by these companies to map how the infection is spread across the country and to determine whether citizens are engaging in social distancing.

“We’re encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage aggregated, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts,” an anonymous official with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy told the Post. 

The federal government collecting smartphone location data from users across the country could concern data privacy advocates. The data would be strictly used for the benefit of public organizations combating the virus, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several other countries have debated similar measures. The head of Germany’s public health organization, the Robert Koch Institute, has suggested that collecting the data could be an effective approach to beating the virus but this would likely conflict with European Union data privacy regulations.

The Attorney General of Israel has “approved the use of cyber measures to track patients' phones,” which would allow the country’s domestic intelligence agency to monitor cases by geolocating their smartphones.

Iran introduced a mobile app to help individuals check for coronavirus symptoms. It was later learned that the app was used by the Iranian government to spy on its citizens and collect their smartphone data. Google removed the app from the Play Store. 

There have been over 196,000 coronavirus cases around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with the global death toll at more than 7,869. In the United States, there have been over 5,000 cases, with at least 100 deaths.