Uber launches contact-tracing service for public health officials

Gives health officials data on drivers and riders who may have come into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus

Company officials at Uber told Reuters the rideshare company has launched a service to provide public health officials with access to data on drivers and riders who may have come into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

Uber is promoting this free service to government health officials in all the countries Uber operates in.

The newly-minted service provides health departments with data about who used Uber’s services and when, and also enables health agencies to encourage affected users to quarantine. 

As part of the service, Uber will also automatically block customers with confirmed coronavirus infections from the rideshare platform for at least 14 days.

Uber is no stranger to working with US law enforcement officials in emergencies or as part of criminal investigations. When it comes to health issues, Uber’s involvement began with the 2019 measles resurgence in the US.

According to Mike Sullivan, Uber’s chief of global law enforcement, company executives met with health department and CDC officials to discuss how Uber’s data could be used to track measles cases. Discussions quickly moved to the coronavirus

“Our timing ended up being beneficial in that it allowed us to get ahead before COVID started ramping up globally,” said Sullivan.

Uber received 560 coronavirus-related requests from public health departments in 29 countries in the first half of 2020. Company officials say Uber processed most of these requests within two hours. Of those requests, 158 were filed by health authorities in 40 locations in the US.

Sullivan says Uber has seen an increase in contact-tracing requests from Australia and New Zealand, which have been applauded for their success in early coronavirus containment. Sullivan added that contact tracing in several European countries was also much more coordinated than in the US.

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