Google to Publish User Location Data to Help Governments Tackle Virus

Google will publish location data from its users around the world from Friday to allow governments to gauge the effectiveness of social distancing measures put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the tech giant said.

The COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports website will show population data trends of six categories: Retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.

The data will track changes over the course of several weeks, and as recent as 48-to-72 hours prior, and will initially cover 131 countries as well as individual counties within certain states.

Google says the data will be collected in aggregate, rather than at an individual level, and it won’t show absolute numbers of people showing up at parks or grocery stores. The idea instead is to outline percentages, which highlight potential surges in attendance

Infectious disease specialists have said analyzing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements.

Trends will display “a percentage point increase or decrease in visits” to locations like parks, shops, homes and places of work, not “the absolute number of visits,” said the post, signed by Jen Fitzpatrick, who leads Google Maps, and the company’s chief health officer Karen DeSalvo.

No “personally identifiable information,” such as a person’s location, contacts or movements, will be made available, the post said.

Data in Google’s reports come from users who enabled Google’s “Location History” feature on their devices. The company said it adopted technical measures to ensure that no individual could be identified through the new reports.

 

 

  
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