On 21 March, the Federal Council banned gatherings of more than five people in public places (Article 7c paragraph 1 COVID-19 Ordinance 2). The authorities would now like to receive information as to whether this measure to protect the population is being complied with. Based on Swisscom’s Mobility Insights platform, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) receives analyses of mobility and crowds in public spaces. The platform and corresponding analyses have already been used in the Smart City environment, e.g. in Montreux or in Pully.
Initial evaluations show that since the ban on gatherings of more than five persons, people have been travelling significantly less. At the end of March, for example, travel activity, measured in kilometres travelled, fell by around 50% throughout Switzerland compared to a typical previous month. What stands out is that the population in Ticino shows the clearest reduction in travel.
To make crowds of people visible, the Mobility Insight platform (based on Art. 45b of the Telecommunications Act) identifies areas with at least 20 SIM cards in an area measuring 100 by 100 metres. The analyses are based on approximate location data from the previous day.
In order to obtain information on how the travel activities of the population have changed, the platform shows the approximate mobility of Swisscom SIM cards for a region (e.g. a canton) within a certain period of time. The information that is generated in the mobile network for technical reasons is automatically anonymised immediately after it is generated and is then processed in aggregated form for analysis.
At no time does the FOPH receive location data, but only statistics and visualisations which Swisscom can derive from this data. The analyses/visualisations are completely anonymised and aggregated, i.e. only recognisable as a group value. This means that no conclusions can be drawn about individuals or individual movement profiles. The provisions of the Swiss Data Protection Act and the ethical principles that Swisscom follows in the use of data are complied with in full. As soon as COVID-19 Ordinance 2 is no longer applicable, no more analyses will be made available to the FOPH.
Customers can therefore determine themselves for which smart data products and services Swisscom may use their anonymised and aggregated (i.e. highly summarised) data (opt-out). An opt-out can be made via the Customer Centre under My Profile in the “Data Protection” section. This means that the data is not used for further analysis.
The mobile network is structured like a honeycomb with mobile phone cells. In order for the mobile network to function, it must always know which active device is logged into which cell. As soon as a user moves, he is transferred from cell to cell via a “handover”. Mobility Insights uses this metadata, which is created during the operation of each mobile network, in an anonymised and aggregated form. Unlike other applications, it does not use GPS data or data from apps. This information comes solely from network operation and is generated in one way or another, regardless of the device used or apps installed.
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