Google has launched a new web site that uses anonymous location data received from users of Google products and services, to show a level of social distancing in different places.
Analysis of location data held by Google with billions of phone users, is the largest publicly accessible data set that will help health authorities to assess whether people comply with quarantine?? orders for the lock, taken in varying degrees around the world.
In the report Google provides graphs comparing traffic from February 16 to March 29, at metro stations, railway and bus stations, grocery stores and other widely visited places in comparison with the five-week period earlier this year.
On the website COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports will be submitted data on population in six categories: retail and leisure, grocery and pharmacy, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential areas. The data will monitor changes in a few weeks and over the last 48-72 hours, and will initially cover 131 countries, as well as a separate district in certain States of the USA.
Relevant information can be downloaded from the website in pdf format.
Google says that the data will be collected in aggregate and not individually, and will not show the absolute number of people that appear in parks or grocery stores. Instead, the idea is to map out the percentages, which determine the potential for bursts of traffic. For example, in his first report States that in the County of San Francisco retail locations and recreational areas attendance has fallen by 72% in parks – 55%, from 16 February to 29 March – 21%.
In Italy, one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus, shopping and entertainment venues, including restaurants and cinemas decreased by 94%, and visits to the working places – 63%. Reflecting the seriousness of the crisis there, visiting grocery stores and pharmacies in Italy decreased by 85%, and visiting parks has dropped by 90%.
These data also underscore some of the problems faced by the authorities when blocking people. Visit grocery stores has increased dramatically in Singapore, the UK and other places because there were restrictions on travel.
In contrast, in Japan where authorities have been relatively loyal, calling for measures on social distancing, but where is daily increased by the number of calls in connection with emergency situation visits to the outlets and places has decreased by 26%. Visit jobs fell by only 9%.
According to Reuters, the coronavirus has infected more than 1 million people worldwide, and COVID-19, it causes respiratory disease, has killed 52 thousand people.
For departments of public health such data may be useful for warning them about the next potential flash point COVID-19. This is especially true in combination with other forms of data that are already routinely collected at the local, state and Federal levels, such as symptoms, are complaining patients in emergency departments. It can also be useful to assist officials of the health system in specific regions with a further message about the importance of having to be at a distance of two meters from each other, or with the closure of the parks, where the inhabitants regularly disregard the rules.
Such information may be especially important, as people in different countries are beginning to return to school and to work. In this case, officials of public health can use data to know where the most congested areas and take appropriate action. “This information can help officials understand changes in the basic movements that can form recommendations on working time or to inform about the proposals of the shipping service“, – said in a statement.
However, these efforts can also again raise privacy concerns about how Google collects information about users ‘ location.
The new website States that it uses the aggregated and anonymous information from the “location History” in Google maps and other services that are “disabled by default”. However, the settings track the location Google has for many years been a source of confusion – in April 2019 Todd Haselton from CNBC found that Google was tracking his location for many years without his knowledge, and explained how to disable the tracking. In October 2019 Australian officials has accused Google of misleading consumers in 2018 and earlier in the settings to disable location tracking.
Recent efforts have been made in connection with the fact that Google and its parent company Google are increasingly cooperating with the government to counter the pandemic COVID-19. The administration of the trump partnered with the company to study biological Sciences Verily Alphabet to create a web site with the purpose of checking and testing, and has created several web resources for information about the pandemic and data analysis.
At the same time the company Facebook, which like Google has billions of users, shared data about the location with non-governmental researchers, who are preparing similar reports to the authorities in several countries. But the social networking giant has not yet published any results.
According to the materials: СNBC and Reuters.