With much of the world in near complete shutdown in a global effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Governments and health officials have been looking for ways to track the our movements which could lead to the possible spread of the virus. They want to know who is following the stay at home rules currently in effect. That is where Google and there vast data collection ability comes in. If you agreed to share your location data when setting up google maps you are apart of this data point. Google is using the maps mobility data to track our movements to show who is staying home and who is conducting their business as usual. Google’s Community Mobility Reports can be viewed by everyone, you can check out your area by selecting its location and downloading the PDF.
As global communities respond to COVID-19, we’ve heard from public health officials that the same type of aggregated, anonymized insights we use in products such as Google Maps could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.
These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.–Google Community Mobility Reports
Google’s Preserving privacy
The Community Mobility Reports were developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and protecting people’s privacy. No personally identifiable information, such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement, will be made available at any point.
Insights in these reports are created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default. People who have Location History turned on can choose to turn it off at any time from their Google Account and can always delete Location History data directly from their Timeline.
We also use the same world-class anonymization technology used in our products every day to keep your activity data private and secure. This includes differential privacy, which adds artificial noise to our datasets, enabling us to generate insights while preventing the identification of any individual person.
“World-class anonymization technology”, sounds pretty sophisticated. Just don’t think about it to much and its fine. I mean its kind of cool to see that data but at the same time its pretty scary when you think that Google barely had to lift a finger to put these reports together because all of that data was already sitting there waiting to be used. Again, don’t think about it and everything is fine.