09/17/2020

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Big Tech for the Win



Facebook’s Newest Applications

In an effort to “gather and share data for good,” Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has introduced the company’s newest tool: daily updated maps that show people who have coronavirus symptoms county-by-county. Carnegie Mellon has helped to develop an opt-in survey through which Facebook users can report their COVID-19 symptoms.

The data is not accessible to Facebook, but is sent to the researchers running the survey. Zuckerberg believes that tech companies can do their part in responding to the coronavirus by aggregating valuable data to be used by governments and health officials alike, and is optimistic that this particular tool will do so by forecasting hospital demand and helping to allocate scarce resources.

Instagram Founders Reveal New Visuals


The founders of Instagram, who left Facebook in 2018, are also discovering ways for their tech know-how to be applied in response to the pandemic. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have released Rt.live, a real-time tracker that shows the virus’ spread state-by-state.

The tool measures how quickly the virus is spreading by showing the average number of people infected by a single known infectious person . They hope the data visualization tool will show how differences in shelter-in-place orders and public compliance can impact the virus’ severity, and help states manage infections as they begin to think about what reopening their economies could look like. “As states decide whether and how to open back up, they’ll have to manage their infection rate carefully, and we hope dashboards like rt.live will be helpful in doing so,” Krieger said.

Will Public Opinion of Big Tech Shift?


These efforts are a chance for large tech companies to redeem themselves in the public’s eyes. For years, tech’s public perception has faltered. Facebook, Amazon (AMZN), and Google (GOOGL) have long dealt with “techlash,” the term used to describe the resentment that some consumers feel towards tech companies. Many have criticized these companies for not paying their fair share of taxes, driving out competition, and not being careful about data privacy.

Now, however, public opinion could be shifting. Facebook is a source of social comfort. Amazon is helping to provide food and supplies to consumers in need. Google is giving people information about coronavirus. As coronavirus cuts out so many parts of people’s daily lives, many are thankful for big tech’s dependability. Coupled with recent goodwill efforts on the tech platform, this moment could be a turning point.


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