‘The world has faced pandemics before, but this time we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good. If we use it responsibly, I’m optimistic that data can help the world respond to this health crisis and get us started on the road to recovery.’
That’s Facebook FB, -4.17% co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg touting his company’s potential role in navigating the world through the coronavirus pandemic.
“Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
He pointed to a survey in the Facebook community run by Carnegie Mellon University in which people were asked if they have symptoms such as fevers, coughing, shortness of breath or loss of smell that are associated with COVID-19. The idea being that the results would help forecast the load hospitals will have to bear in the days ahead, as well as provide an early indicator of where the outbreak is growing and where the curve is being flattened.
That’s just one example. Facebook has also released numerous disease-prevention maps from its “Data for Good” program that shows where people have been traveling and interacting in different regions, which has helped public health researchers make global decisions.
“Researchers in Taiwan have been able to identify the cities with the highest chance of infection; researchers in Italy are analyzing lockdown measures in relation to income inequality; and California officials are reviewing county-level data daily to steer public health messaging,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Of course, as with all things Facebook, privacy is a major concern.
“It’s important that organizations involved in this work commit to doing it in a way that protects people’s information and that any data collected is used solely for responding to public health emergencies and for other crisis response efforts,” he wrote. “Fighting the pandemic has required taking unprecedented measures across society, but it shouldn’t mean sacrificing our privacy.”
Facebook and Zuckerberg, through charity initiatives, tracking maps, a steady media presence, etc., have taken an active role in the fight against the pandemic. Most recently, the social-media giant removed events set up for protests in Nebraska, California and New Jersey, where thousands were called to gather and defy the government’s social-distancing rules.
Like much of corporate America, Facebook, from a business perspective, is grappling with a brutal environment for making money. While users, stuck at home, flock to the site in record numbers, ad spending has been gutted, particularly among major markets such as travel websites.
Some 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from travel and films, while many of its advertisers are small businesses likely to slash spending. The postponement until Nov. 25 of the new James Bond movie, “No Time To Die,” will alone cost Facebook $50 million, one analyst estimated.
While the stock has shown signs of life in recent weeks, it’s been a tough year. Facebook shares are down more than 16%, compared with a 14% drop for the S&P 500 SPX, -3.06%.
Originally Published on MarketWatch
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