Google Launches Community Mobility Reports to Help Combat COVID-19

Google hopes its reports, which use aggregated and anonymized data to chart community movement trends over time will be useful to health officials making critical decisions in the fight against COVID-19.

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Need to Know

  • To help health officials track the impact of social health strategies like distancing measures, Google releases a COVID-19 Community Mobility Report. 
  • The reports chart aggregated and anonymized data and track movements over time by geography across different categories like retail, parks and grocery stores. 
  • Trends are reported over several weeks with the most recent data representing 48-72 hours prior. 
  • The reports aim to provide the community and health officials with insight into how politics are affecting efforts in the combat of COVID-19 as well as providing critical data for predicting trends.

Analysis

With an increase of public health strategies to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Google hopes its COVID-19 Community Mobility Report will provide insight into the effectiveness of social distancing measures and help health officials strategize further. 

“Starting today we’re publishing an early release of our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to 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,” Google said on its website. “These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies.” 

Each Community Mobility Report is broken down by geographical location and displays changes in visits to places with generally high concentrations of people like parks, transit stations, retail, and grocery. For comparison purposes, the reports also display changes in visits to residential dwellings, data that could be especially useful in areas where positive cases are still rapidly increasing. 

In line with Google’s stringent privacy protocols, the data in the Community Mobility Reports is collected using anonymization technology which adds artificial noise to the dataset to both generate insights and preventing individual identification. The data is collected from users who have the Location History setting turned on in their Google Account, a setting that can be turned off at any time directly in the users’ Google Account. 

The reports, available directly on Google’s website will be available as long as health officials find the data useful and will continue to evolve with additional countries and languages. 

In addition to its COVID-19 report, Google recently pledged $800M to help address global challenges experienced by small-and-medium-sized businesses, health organizations, and frontline health workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The support comes in the form of ad grants, ad credits, investments in non-Governmental organizations, and direct financial support to increase the production of crucial medical equipment. 

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