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As Canadian authorities are thinking about using geolocalized data from cell phones to track the spread of the coronavirus, Radio-Canada got access to the data from 7.9 million cell phones across the country. Our analysis shows how Quebecers multiplied their movements at the worst possible moment: during spring break and at a time when health authorities were still underestimating the presence of COVID-19 in the province.

In mid-March, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that the province would be put “on pause.” Many companies were left with little to do. This included Drako Media, a company that specializes in mobile marketing. “Our activities came grinding to a halt,” explained the company’s co-founder, Laurent Elkaim. “So we asked ourselves if we could share our data to better understand what is going on.” This included sharing 6.7 billion location points from 7.9 million cell phone users in Canada.

The data was provided for free. It had been anonymized and aggregated before being shared with us, out of respect for each individual’s privacy. The precise locations and the phone identification numbers were never shared with us. From this data, we created models to observe the movements across provinces, regions in Quebec and boroughs in Montreal. We conducted our analysis independently.

Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Date: May 7th, 2020

Link to article and interactive map:


  1. How might you use data just like this to solve other social issues?
  2. What sorts of services could you build off a database of data like this?

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