Google releasing location data to track movements during Covid-19 lockdown
Google announced that it has started releasing global location data to help public health officials track how people are moving during lockdowns and orders to stay at home across the world.
The tech giant confirmed that it is publishing anonymised data for 131 countries and regions around the globe to show how people have moved during the course of the pandemic that has now infected more than one 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.
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 among users remaining in their homes between February 16 and March 29.
In Kenya, it showed a 45 percent decline in mobility trends for places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theaters.
Also, mobility trends for places like grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops, drug stores, and pharmacies had declined by 33 percent.
Mobility trends for places of residence had increased by 17 percent while places of work had decreased by 22 percent while public transport hubs, bus and train stations had decreased by 39 percent.
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.