Google releasing location data to help track lockdown movement amid coronavirus

Google releasing location data to help track lockdown movement amid coronavirus
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Google on Friday announced that it has started releasing global location data in an effort to help public health officials track how people are moving during lockdowns and orders to stay at home around the world.  

The tech giant confirmed that it is publishing anonymized data for 131 countries and regions around the world to show how people have moved during the course of the pandemic that has now infected over 1 million people.

“These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential,” Google said on their site launched to share the reports.

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Google’s report on the U.S. shows a 47 percent decline in the number of tracked residents going to retail and recreation spots, like restaurants, cafes, shopping centers and more, between Feb. 16 and March 29. It also shows a 22 percent decrease in people going to pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as a 19 percent decrease in those traveling to parks, beaches, marinas and other outdoor spots.

The information is gathered using user data from Google Maps and other Google services. However, no personal data for individuals, such as a person’s location, contacts or movement, is listed in the new data.

Users can also turn off their location history “at any time from their Google account,” and they can also delete their personal data.

The data shows a 12 percent increase in the number of users remaining in their homes between Feb. 16 and March 29.

Google said it heard from health officials that the information could be helpful in making critical decisions to fight the spread of the virus. For example, “persistent visits to transportation hubs might indicate the need to add additional buses or trains in order to allow people who need to travel room to spread out for social distancing,” Google said, according to The Associated Press.