Google Publish User Location Data to Tackle COVID-19 Pandemic

Google said from Friday it would be releasing location data from its users around the world to allow governments to evaluate the efficacy of social distancing initiatives placed in place to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the current pandemic times, this knowledge can be used to gain useful insights into how many people are socially isolated, and how the quarantine affects a population.

As per the blog post by google “The reports on users’ movements in 131 countries will be made available on a special website and will “chart movement trends over time by geography. Trends will display “a percentage point increase or decrease in visits” to locations like parks, shops, homes and places of work, not “the absolute number of visits,”

Therefore the report will use “aggregated, anonymised” data from users who have enabled their location history and there will be no “personally identifiable information” available, such as the location of a person, contacts or movements.

Trends would definitely indicate “a percentage point rise or decrease in visits” to areas such as parks, stores, houses and even offices, not “the total amount of visits,” said the post, approved by Jen Fitzpatrick, leading Google Maps, as well as Karen DeSalvo, the company’s main health and wellness policeman.

Data in Google’s reports comes from users who activated the “Location History” feature on their devices on Google. The company said it took technical steps to ensure that no individual can be identified via the new reports.

Governments have requested electronic surveillance of their citizens ‘movements from China to Singapore to Israel in an attempt to restrict the spread of the virus, which has infected more than a million people worldwide and killed more than 50,000.

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