Google to Use Location Data to Track People in Crowded Places

Google has released mobility reports to help governments track community movement amid coronavirus lockdown.

Updated
Tech News
2 min read
Google launches new website for tracking mobility of people.
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Google has released a new website that enables governments to track community movements and ascertain how many people are adhering to coronavirus lockdown and stay at home orders.

While primarily created to come to the aid of governments, the website can also be accessed by others. It is created to let public health officials understand responses to social distancing guidance related to COVID-19.

The report shows trends of how the community is moving around differently due to coronavirus scares.

The reports will work similarly to Google Maps, which detects traffic jams using "aggregated, anonymised" data from users who have activated their location history.

"The reports use aggregated, anonymised data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places," said in a blog post, signed by Jen Fitzpatrick, who leads Google Maps, and the company's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo.

Report will Show Community Movement at Six Hotspots

Each report will cover six places:

  • Retail and Recreation, covering visits to restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, theme parks, museums, libraries, movie theaters, and similar locations
  • Grocery and Pharmacy, covering supermarkets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops, and drug stores
  • Parks, covering public beaches, marinas, dog parks, plazas, and other public spaces
  • Transit stations, covering subway stops and bus and train stations
  • Workplaces, covering offices
  • Residences, covering people’s homes
Community Mobility Report for India
Community Mobility Report for India
(Photo: Google Community Mobility Report screen grab)

The data will cover trends from the past 48 to 72 hours, said Google.

The company also said that all reports follow stringent privacy protocols and policies, as a result of which, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, will be made available at any point.

In addition to the Community Mobility Reports, Google is also working to better understand and forecast the pandemic. "We are collaborating with select epidemiologists working on COVID-19 with updates to an existing aggregate, anonymised dataset that can be used to better understand and forecast the pandemic."

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