The containment measures, decided by the French government and taken on Tuesday March 17 in an attempt to stem the pandemic caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, did indeed lead to a significant exodus of Ile-de-France residents to the province. A statistical analysis of telephone data by the operator Orange estimates that nearly 1.2 million of them – 17% of the inhabitants of the metropolis of Greater Paris – left their region between March 13 and 20.
If, according to Orange, the movement of Ile-de-France residents to the province has been fairly homogeneous, certain areas are subject to a significant increase in their population. The Ile de Ré saw its population jump by 30%, the departments of Orne and Yonne saw their increase by 10%, and Ille-et-Vilaine by 6%. The Paris region also has around 100,000 fewer tourists than usual.
The study was carried out by Orange on the basis of geolocation data from the phones of its subscribers. They were compiled and analyzed for public actors, in particular health. These data were shared with the prefectures having made the request, the AP-HP, the SAMU and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm). Some results of this study have been communicated to the World. Some of these figures were also mentioned Thursday, March 26 by Orange CEO Stéphane Richard on the airwaves of Europe 1.
Orange ensures that it transmits statistical aggregates to its partners, not individual and “identifying” data. These data are compiled on the scale of portions of the territory determined by INSEE, which represent around 50,000 people. The data transmitted by Orange does not make it possible to locate individuals, but simply to know how many people are in this portion of territory on a given date, and thus to be able to know the evolution of the population, positive or negative, on each between them.
Orange thus assures that it has not made an accurate census of the location of the French, and has visibility only on the activity of its 24 million daily users of its networks. Based on the number of them having visited each zone, the operator ensures that it is able, taking into account its large number of customers and by means of statistical adjustments, to obtain a representative and reliable evolution of the population.
Anticipating the spread of the coronavirus
Orange already knows, moreover, where its subscribers are at all times: it is necessary to route the SMS and calls to the smartphones of its customers. However, during the crisis linked to the spread of the coronavirus, the operator decided to share this aggregated and anonymized information with third parties. Orange thus ensures that it is in the grips of the law on personal data, insofar as this data is only an extrapolated number of individuals present in an area, and does not allow a subscriber to its services to be identified.
The main interest of these statistical data for French health authorities is to be able to anticipate possible future foci of contamination. Orange’s data is also being integrated into Inserm’s epidemiological models to better understand the mechanisms and rate of spread of the coronavirus.
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