Mobility analysis planned by Statistics Estonia not to use real-time data

Smartphone. Photo is illustrative.
Smartphone. Photo is illustrative. Source: ERR

Following an order from the government, Statistics Estonia is set to conduct an analysis of anonymous data from electronic communications that will not use real-time data, spokespeople for Statistics Estonia said on Thursday.

Aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the government crisis committee issued an order to Statistics Estonia to conduct an analysis using anonymous data from electronic communications.

Statistics Estonia said that the analysis would not be based on real-time data, there is no plan to analyze the movement patterns of individuals, and that such patterns cannot be analyzed using anonymized data.

The plan is only to analyze the movement patterns of individuals before and after the emergency situation was declared in Estonia.

"If we can start conducting the analysis based on anonymous data, the result that will be received is an excerpt in the style of, 'In region XXX, 87 percent of mobile devices remained in the same region,'" Statistics Estonia Director General Mart Mägi explained.

According to Mägi, as things stand, discussions concerning the planned analysis are still underway with telecommunications companies.

Once Statistics Estonia reaches an agreement with telecommunications companies, an analysis of people's movements prior and after the declaration of the emergency situation will begin based on anonymous aggregate data. Statistics Estonia will only be provided with anonymized data, all customers' privacy will be ensured in the forwarding of their data, and all actions will be conducted in conformity with data protection rules in force in Estonia, Mägi stressed.

The survey has been approved by the Data Protection Inspectorate.

"No one individual's movement patterns will be analyzed, and it isn't possible to analyze them based on this data," the director general explained. "This is a statistical mobility survey that will examine overall trends."

Should the survey be launched, it is planned to continue through the end of the emergency situation. The anonymous data involved will not be used for any other purposes, and Statistics Estonia will not receive any real-time data from telecom operators.

"The planned mobility analysis based on anonymous data will not look at whether people are making a phone call or sending messages, exchanging data, or where they are moving and what their location is at a specific point," Mägi said. "Statistics Estonia will only receive past data in non-personalized form meaning not in real time." Communications companies would likewise not be relaying information on which countries Estonian residents have visited or where they are at present either, he added.

Should telecommunications companies agree to sharing anonymous data, the processing of anonymous data by strictly scientific methods will begin, the agency said. Data processing will only take place in the secure environment of Statistics Estonia; the obtained data will not leave the office thereof, and it will be deleted after processing.

Statistics Estonia is cooperating with the Government Office, the Health Board, the Data Protection Inspectorate, various ministries, the IT Center of the Ministry of Finance and telecommunications companies to conduct this mobility analysis.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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