Mobile phone data is passively collected in real-time by operators, producing enormous data sets that can be used to map human populations and migration accurately. These data hold enormous promise for infectious disease control and other public health interventions, as well as for response to emergencies. However, the privacy implications and complex political and regulatory environment surrounding their use have yet to be addressed systematically. Here, I will discuss the work we have been doing to use these records to model and forecast disease outbreaks, as well as the potential pitfalls and ethical issues associated with the increasingly routine use of these data in the public realm.
Dr. Caroline Buckee joined Harvard School of Public Health in the summer of 2010 as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology. In 2013, Dr. Buckee was named the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. Her focus is on elucidating the mechanisms driving the dynamics and evolution of the malaria parasite and other genetically diverse pathogens. After receiving a D.Phil from the University of Oxford, Caroline worked at the Kenya Medical Research Institute to analyze clinical and epidemiological aspects of malaria as a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow. Her work led to an Omidyar Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute, where she developed theoretical approaches to understanding malaria parasite evolution and ecology.
Dr. Buckee’s work at Harvard extends these approaches using mathematical models to bridge the biological scales underlying malaria epidemiology; she works with experimental researchers to understand the molecular mechanisms within the host that underlie disease and infection, and uses genomic and mobile phone data to link these individual-level processes to understand population level patterns of transmission. Her work has appeared in high profile scientific journals such as Science and PNAS, as well as being featured in the popular press, including CNN, The New Scientist, Voice of America, NPR, and ABC.