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Google is using location data to see who’s taking the coronavirus lockdown seriously

Finally, a good use for our data.

google coronavirus tracking
Image: Google

There’s a new weapon in the fight against transmission of the coronavirus – anonymized location data gathered from smartphones using Google’s software. That data will let public health officials understand how people’s movements have changed, and also if their current mitigation strategies are working.

In a Google blog post that went live early Friday morning, you can see reports from countries worldwide, and all the regions of the United States. It uses data from those users who have opted to share location history with Google and is aimed at showing just how well people are complying with things like shelter-in-place orders.

It’s the same anonymized data that powers Google Maps‘ predictions on when your local businesses are most likely to be busy, repurposed to give public health officials helpful tips to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

google location data for coronavirus

Image: Google

It seems that the current orders to shelter in place and work from home wherever possible are being followed in the data from Maryland, where I live. There’s a 39 percent drop in workplace location data which is telling. The upswing in residential data won’t ever match that exactly, as not every person in multi-person households goes to work, but the curve matches. Good job Marylanders, now stop hoarding all the Lysol, ok?

The reports have six sections showing overviews of movement patterns:

  • Retail and recreation which covers restaurants, shopping centers, museums, and other similar places
  • Grocery and pharmacy which covers everything from supermarkets to farmer’s markets and drug stores
  • Parks which is every outdoor public space like plazas, marinas, parks, and walking areas
  • Transit stations which covers bus, train and subway stations
  • Workplaces which is office buildings for the most part
  • Residences which is your homes

If you want to go see the report for your local area, head on over to Google’s COVID-19 community mobility report page and type in your state to get a PDF version of the report.

What do you think? Plan on checking this out for your own area? Does this type of data collection worry you? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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