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It Is All About Location: Smartphones and Tracking the Spread of COVID-19

Frith, J. & Saker, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-7414-2840 (2020). It Is All About Location: Smartphones and Tracking the Spread of COVID-19. Social Media + Society, 6(3), article number 2056305120. doi: 10.1177/2056305120948257


Mobile phone location data have become tied to understandings of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data visualizations have used mobile phone data to inform people about how mobility practices may be linked to the spread of the virus, and governments have explored contact tracing that relies upon mobile phone data. This article examines how these uses of location data implicate three particular issues that have been present in the growing body of locative media research: (1) anonymized data are often not anonymous, (2) location data are not always representative and can exacerbate inequality, and (3) location data are a key part of the extension of the surveillance state.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: smartphones, locative media, surveillance, privacy, COVID-19
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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