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Three Critical Issues on Working with Mobile Phone Data During a Pandemic

Leo Ferres
Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

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ABSTRACT During the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile phone data sets have been used all over the world to measure the effectiveness of mobility restrictions and to inform epidemiological models of disease dynamics. However, there are several issues with mobile phone datasets that have not been thoroughly investigated, and which can cause serious impacts in the conclusions drawn from the studies using these data, and their implementation or impact in public policy, for example. Here we discuss three of these issues: Modifiable area units (MEAP) and the politics of administrative boundaries, common evaluation techniques of trip/mobility algorithms, and the ethics/responsibility of data sharing. Some of these issues have straightforward methodologies (even if not solutions per se, such as the MEAP), others have straightforward solutions, but haven’t been discussed yet (trip evaluations), and others are downright difficult to reach a common ground, such as the sharing of private, sensitive, commercial data. In this work, we discuss a few solutions to each of these issues, and open the door for a more open scientific discussion.

BIOLeo Ferres is a Research Professor of Computer Science at Universidad del Desarrollo, a fellow of the Telefónica R+D Center in Santiago, Chile and a researcher at the ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy. His interests include big data, mobile phones, mobility and computational social science.