German disease control agency to use mobile data to map coronavirus spread

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BERLIN, March 18 (Xinhua) -- German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom has provided the federal disease control agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI) with anonymized data from its mobile phone network to help the agency make statistical predictions on the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the company announced on Wednesday.

The scientists from RKI could use the data to map so-called "flows of movement", according Deutsche Telekom.

"The data shows us whether the mobility of the population has decreased overall," said RKI president Lothar Wieler in Berlin on Wednesday. A further data delivery was scheduled to take place next week.

"If we see that people are not implementing the measures at all, and we can see this from these aggregated data, then we can see the reason why the intervention we want is not successful," Wieler added.

Information on the whereabouts or movement traces of individual mobile phone users, in other words the "individual tracking" of infected people in Germany, were not being monitored, Deutsche Telekom stressed.

However, the nationwide mobile phone data could be traced back to federal states, districts and communities in Germany, according to Deutsche Telekom.

The German commissioner for data protection and freedom of information Ulrich Kelber considered the disclosure of the data in this format to be justifiable under data protection law.

"Especially in the current circumstances, there is no reason not to share these data for the purpose of health protection," said Kelber on Twitter.

At the beginning of this week, Germany's national and state governments announced severe restrictions to public life, closing schools and child-care facilities as well as prohibiting large events. Unlike in France, however, Germans are still allowed to leave their homes at their own discretion.

According to RKI, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of infections with COVID-19 in Germany has risen to 8,198 with 12 casualties as of Wednesday. Enditem

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