Google Uses Anonymized Location History to Track Community Mobility

Google Uses Anonymized Location History to Track Community Mobility

Google Uses Anonymized Location History to Track Community Mobility

As a step to help public health officials make strategic decisions regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Google has announced COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports today.

“We’re 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.”, wrote the company in a blog post.

Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report makes use of anonymized location data to estimate movement trends from users who have turned on Location History. The locations are broadly classified into retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential categories.

The reports will initially cover 131 countries across the globe. If you’re interested, you may access the page here, enter the region you’re interested in, and download the data in PDF format.

For instance, according to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility report for India, the country witnessed a 77% decline in retail & recreation and a 65% decline in grocery & pharmacy. Parks, Transit stations, Workplaces saw a fall of  57, 71, and 47 percent respectively.

On the other hand, Residential areas showed a 22 percent increase as you would expect since people are advised to stay home and practice social distancing to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In the report, Google explicitly mentions it should not be used for medical diagnostic purposes. “This report shouldn’t be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic, or treatment purposes. It also isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travel plans.”

Google’s approach to providing community mobility insights is similar to what the company already does with Google Maps to estimate how crowded a place would be during a particular time of the day or live traffic info on Google Maps that helps you plan your commute according to the traffic conditions.

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