Google Starts Tracking Its Users’ Location Amid Quarantine

06 April 2020

The company is releasing reports on traffic in public spaces during COVID-19 pandemic

Google will gather anonymized location data on how people are moving around the local communities during the quarantine. The company announced the release of its service COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports on its official blog.

With this new service, anyone can view and download PDF-reports on changing mobility patterns in 131 countries. Ukraine is not on the list yet.

Еhis way, Google aims to help battle against the pandemic: gathered data will allow public officials around the world to tune their messages to their communities. 

“As global communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing emphasis on public health strategies, like social distancing measures, to slow the rate of transmission. In Google Maps, we use aggregated, anonymized data showing how busy certain types of places are — helping identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded. We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymized data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19,” says Google in its blog post

Google tracks traffic changes in restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, groceries, pharmacies, parks, workplaces, and residences. The company also wanted to add hospitals but had to give up the idea. The system can’t distinguish between patients, visitors, and medical workers, so the data on how crowded the hospitals truly are would be irrelevant. 

The reports collect info from people who have chosen to store their location history. The graphs show how crowded certain public places have been over the past 24-72 hours. However, there is no data about who visited those places and how many times. 

To evaluate the effectiveness of social distancing orders, Facebook shared similar reports a few days ago. That’s how large tech companies react to governments’ requests to help stop the pandemic.

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