Google Maps to assist people in maintaining effective social distancing

Elias Hubbard
April 10, 2020

"Covid-19 is an emergency on such a huge scale that, if anonymity is managed appropriately, internet giants and social media platforms could play a responsible part in helping to build collective crowd intelligence for social good, rather than profit", Skilton said.

Google claims the reports both the public and public health officials understand the effectiveness and impact of social distancing guides.

For example, visitors arriving from overseas into Hong Kong have to wear a tracking bracelet.

In what may be the strictest move, China gave people smartphone codes that display the colors green, yellow, and red. "Similarly, persistent visits to transportation hubs might indicate the need to add additional buses or trains in order to allow people who need to travel room to spread out for social distancing".

Senators asked Pichai if Google plans to share personal data or information that is not completely anonymized, and if it is collecting data for this tracker through measures outside of the Location History tool. Now Google has joined that list of companies.

In the new Community Mobility Reports, Google says that the aim of it is to provide public health officials an insight into what has changed in "response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19".

In March, Google confirmed to CNN it was exploring ways to use aggregated, anonymized data to help in the coronavirus effort, as first reported by the Washington Post. That means smartphone users can choose not to contribute to the report, or opt-out whenever they want.

People can visit the COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports website, pick their country and download a PDF that charts the percentage increase or decrease of movement across different high-level categories of places-such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.

"During this pandemic, permissive use of location information overseas has also shown how this type of data sharing can facilitate other societal harms, including the spread of social stigma", the letter continues, referencing a recent Guardian report exposing how health alerts in South Korea were compromising people's privacy.

It shows the trend over several weeks, with the most recent information being 2 to 3 days prior. The company further assured that it's using an anonymization technology to keep activity data private and secure.

The freely available reports span 131 countries, with individual state-by-state reports for the United States.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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