Google Mobility Reports Show Impact of Lockdown

Google published reports today that use aggregated phone location data to show how closely lockdown regulations are being followed around the world. 

The company said its COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports would "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."

The reports use aggregated, anonymized data gathered from cell phones to chart movement trends over time. Specifically, they reveal how busy popular destinations such as shops, parks, recreation spaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, transit stations, residential areas, and workplaces have been since the majority of countries asked people to stay at home. 

Initially, the reports will cover 131 countries and regions and show trends that have emerged over several weeks, with the most recent data included at least 48 hours old. 

Today's reports show a traffic comparison over a five-week period between February 16 and March 29. 

Data gathered from the UK shows that visits to transport station are down 75%, while 85% fewer people are frequenting public recreation places such as restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters.

In Italy, where around 14,000 people have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, strict lockdown measures have resulted in 94% fewer people in shops, restaurants, and cafes, and parks have seen footfall drop by 90%.

By contrast, in Sweden, where no strict measures have been introduced to keep people in their homes, Google found that 18% fewer people were in work, 24% fewer were using recreational spaces, and use of transport stations had dropped by 36%. 

Only data from users who have turned on the Location History setting will be used to create the reports. Currently, this setting is turned off by default.

People who have location history turned on can turn it off at any time from their Google account and can also delete location history data directly from their timeline.

Google says the reports will not intrude on the privacy of individual people, because "no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point."

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