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Nicole Schmidt

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With swarm data against infection

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Stop contagion! Keep your distance from other people! Do not form groups of people! A flattening of the corona infection curve is currently the focus of all health policy measures. According to experts, this is the only way to reduce the burden on hospitals. Lives can and will be saved. 

Image swarm data

This is what the Telekom swarm data looks like: Either dashboard display based on the principle of the thermal imaging camera "The redder the more people"...

And for the prognosis of the spread it is also important: Do people really keep their distance or do they keep gathering? If so: Where? And how many people are still on their way from A to B? Such information can help us to better combat the corona virus and to take measures that restrict our daily lives, not indiscriminately, but purposefully and effectively.

For this reason, the Telekom subsidiary Motionlogic has handed over a comprehensive data package to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Very important: This data does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about individuals or individual movement patterns. They also do not allow tracking of infected persons. It is NOT mobile phone data or movement profiles of individual users. This would also be nonsense, because it is more than difficult to measure direct contact between people with such data. This would require GPS data, such as that available to companies like Google or Facebook.

We, Deutsche Telekom, are clear: We protect our customers' data. The end does not justify the means. But within the scope of what several data protectionists have deemed to be sensible, we are of course helping out, especially in times of crisis. This too is a contribution to digitization in Germany while at the same time respecting our European values with regard to the privacy of the individual.

To the point

Image swarm data

...or figures that show the comparison between, for example, Monday 9 March 2020 and Monday 16 March 2020 for Germany. So in plain language: Are people still travelling as unrestrictedly as ever? This is the kind of data that the Robert-Koch- Institute urgently needs right now.

Motionlogic works exclusively with already anonymized signaling data. The personal data is strictly separated from the geo-data and removed before evaluation. Signaling data is regularly intersected and grouped together. The signaling data is anonymized in real time, aggregated, converted into mass statistics and is only available for evaluation after these steps have been completed. The anonymization process was developed in close cooperation with the former Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI), Andrea Voßhoff, and was checked and certified by external testing laboratories for data protection. Andrea Voßhoff has already confirmed the data protection conformity of the applied anonymization procedure in 2015.

Regarding the actions of the RKI and Telekom also the current Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, confirms that the data of mobile phone users are protected. Furthermore, two well-known and critical data protection experts, Peter Schaar and Thilo Weichert, have recently confirmed that the procedure doesn´t raise concerns. Against this background, we consider it ethically imperative not to withhold this data from the Robert Koch Institute, just to avoid possible negative reports.

Because: Motionlogic has been offering such anonymous mass statistics since 2015. Customers are municipalities and regional transport companies. Based on the movement streams analyzed by Motionlogic, they can, for example, optimize their urban mobility with regard to CO2 reduction or have better data bases for public transport planning - important for the traffic infrastructure in urban areas that is stressed by permanent influx. That too is digitalization. We also think it makes sense to use data that is in line with German data protection standards, and not data that may be offered by other overseas companies whose data protection standards may be far less stringent.

Motionlogic as a small company in its own right can be clearly defined, it is located on the "periphery" of the Deutsche Telekom Group. It therefore has no access to customer data and original mobile phone data. This strict organizational separation clearly shows how high the walls are that Deutsche Telekom puts up around its data. Motionlogic thus does not have access to the original data of the mobile network, but only receives mass statistics. Motionlogic's expertise lies in the evaluation and interpretation of these statistics.

Telekom has given the Robert-Koch-Institute the opportunity to make the transmitted data available to accredited partners of the Robert Koch Institute. The data is still subject to the same purpose limitation: Analysis of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and creation of prediction models to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

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