Google Maps Launches COVID-19 Community Mobility ReportsBy José Escobedo | Fri, 04/03/2020 - 14:18
Public health strategies such as social distancing and being homebound are what many governments across the world are enforcing in order to slowdown COVID-19 from spreading further. In an effort to facilitate and detect if these strategies are being observed, Google Maps has launched COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. These types of reports could be very beneficial to public health officials as they make important decisions to fight the virus.
“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. Starting today, we are publishing an early release of our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic,” said the company in a statement.
These reports provide an in-house analysis that highlights specific location data as it maps and tracks people’s movements around the world. The reports will also be beneficial to the company´s ad-targeting, product development and commercial strategy.
Google writes that the reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential. Once data is collected, it can provide trends over a period of several weeks, while the most updated data will be between 48-to-72 hours prior.
“While we display a percentage point increase or decrease in visits, we do not share the absolute number of visits. To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point,” said the company. Google says these reports will be available for a limited time, as long as public health officials find them useful while working to stop the spread of the virus.
Google is not the only company that is contributing in detecting COVID-19 cases around the world. Contact-tracing proximity technology is another area where the use of apps is currently being tested.
A group of European scientists have developed Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing
(PEPP-PT) system, which makes it possible to interrupt new chains of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by rapidly and effectively informing potentially exposed people.
“We embrace a fully privacy-preserving approach. We build on well-tested, fully implemented proximity measurement and PEPP-PR was explicitly created to adhere to strong European privacy and data protection laws and principles,” the group writes on an online manifesto.