EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- As the economy reopens, the government is giving the go-ahead to tech firms to collect your information.
The goal of the collected data will help them find out where people are going.
Government agencies are turning to companies that are collecting your smartphone location, with apps you use every day.
This is in hopes of fighting COVID-19 and many state and local government agencies are looking at different contact tracing strategies as they begin to reopen...
"They're collecting data supposedly, anonymously off our various apps on our smartphones to find out where people go and what they're doing," said the owner of East Longmeadow's Gogeeks Computer Rescue, Stan Prager.
Prager told Western Mass News they're harnessing information from tech firms on apps you use every day to monitor who is going where.
"In California, where the governor relied on data from Foursquare; that it gathers through its social networking apps to find out how many people were on the beach after reopening," he said. "Then when they discovered more people were on the beach they then made changes in regulations."
Which is raising some privacy concerns...
"You don't know where your data is going [and/or] who is using it and for what purpose," Prager noted.
Smartphone users may not even realize it, with location services automatically enabled in most apps.
"One thing you can do is not give a specific app permission to use your location," Prager explained.
Prager said if you're concerned about privacy...turn off your location on apps that don't need it - like your flashlight - and keep it for apps like weather or maps, but that won't solve the problem completely.
"Most of these companies are using data harvesting," he said. "They're not using a specific app on your phone. They're using all the apps on your phone."
You can entirely shut off your location services, but it comes with some drawbacks.
"Let's say you have a medical emergency [and] your emergency location tracking won't work if you lose your iPhone; Find My iPhone [app] won't work," Prager explained.
Prager also said everything we do is a privacy trade-off, and in a pandemic..it can be a matter of life or death.
"Decisions are being made here that might not otherwise be made," he noted. "Because we're concerned about saving lives."
In Massachusetts, the community tracing collaborative reaches out to contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 by phone or text.
According to the state website, names will not be released and the information is confidential.