KDHE using “social distancing scoreboard” to track progress of social distancing

Southeast Kansas – “We’re using a GPS tracking program called Unacast, which is a social distancing through GPS methodology,” says Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman in an April 1st briefing.

The data collection company Unacast has created a social distancing scoreboard that grades each state in the country on how well residents are following social distancing guidelines.

It uses GPS information from cell phones, and now KDHE has started using the tool to fight COVID-19.

“We are really trying to relate it to the rates of increased cases in a hot spot or region by region and to really take it seriously and give people some feedback. You need to do better,” says Norman.

We spoke with John Motazedi, owner of Joplin based SNC Squared, an IT consulting company, on how the technology works.

“All modern cell phones have GPS in them. And you have devices and applications that typically might report where you are. And that information can be accessed by some vendors to then coordinate times and dates of where you might be, and some other person might be at the same time,” says Motazedi.

Secretary Norman says they aren’t using the information to track individual people, or even people who have tested positive for COVID-19. KDHE also tells us they only have access to the information that’s available on the Unacast website.

But, what if you don’t want to be tracked?

“There’s ways you can actually enable or disable some functions on your phone. And many individuals never consider those options. Their gps tracking is on all the time, whether they’re using the applications or not. So, there’s certain things you can actually turn off on the phone that helps minimize some of the data leakage,” says Motazedi.

One option is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Another option is denying access to your location to the applications on your phone.

You can find out how here:

Android: https://support.google.com/nexus/answer/6179507?hl=en&ref_topic=6179522&fbclid=IwAR2yB-Lbxyh5jRXbw1BJ5Dc32qMuO6Y7q0wBKl6nh3TceQqCCRAHwcQ6LWk

IOS: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203033?fbclid=IwAR23UlXACDo7lfCUuOM0AIEfgLQ3-0HPkRdKyfD2rNOB6GxXygII8r2ahp8

And the easiest is not downloading unnecessary apps that require access to your location.