Google shows most visited locations during COVID-19 pandemic via anonymized insights

Today, Google published ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports‘ to show the frequency of public movement in different locations. The reports are aimed to provide assistance to public health care authorities to monitor large gatherings at public places. As the need of the hour is to maintain social distancing and quarantine to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, this data will help health authorities in identify priority areas, monitor changes in movements and large gatherings, and then device strategies and take decisions.

Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports

The company used its app, Google Maps, to track people’s movement in 131 countries by using their location history on smartphones to compile the reports. Each country’s report includes national and city wise percentage of increase or decrease in number of visitations at different locations. All the reports are public documents and people can see statistics of other countries and cities, besides their own. Published on 2nd April, the reports illustrates 2 to 3 days older data.

On request of healthcare providers, Google compiled the reports based on mobility data collected over time by geography at six types of places: parks, transit stations, retail and recreation centers, pharmacies and groceries, residential areas and workplaces.

 “We’ve heard from public health officials that the same type of aggregated, anonymized insights we use in products such as Google Maps could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19”, said Google.

Google maintains that user privacy was not breached at moment of data collection and compilation, and will not be used at any step as the data collection process continues. The data is completely anonymized.

“Insights in these reports are created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default. People who have Location History turned on can choose to turn it off at any time from their Google Account and can always delete Location History data directly from their Timeline”

Although governments around the world have ordered lockdowns to ensure social distancing and isolation during COVID-pandemic, unfortunately, a large section of populace is not complying with those orders. Hence, in this situation, this data on mobility patterns will be valuable for authorities to prioritize the areas of concern and make decisions accordingly.

Health authorities around the world are working hard to help the maximum number of infectees and trying to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and companies like Google and Apple are working to aid health authorizes as much as they can. But all of this will be in vain, if  people do not cooperate and comply with the orders of isolation for their own benefits.

The data is only valuable for pinning down crowded locations, unfortunately, it will not contain the spread if people still choose to have social gatherings instead of exhibiting responsible behavior; isolation and social distancing. Healthcare providers are overwhelmed and risking their lives for others.

In its official announcement, Google stated that the reports will be updated regularly and in the coming weeks more countries, regions and languages will be added to the list. Adding on, the company says that the reports will only be available till this life altering health crisis prevails to help health authorities.

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