The coronavirus pandemic is not giving the world population a break, and governments have come forward with some drastic measures regarding the isolation of citizens. Despite requests to stay at home, as the main weapon against COVID-19, many people still have difficulty complying with the resolutions and their responsibilities. In order to help public health authorities in this fight, Google intends to share the aggregated data from Google Maps, the same data that inform users how busy certain places are, as a measure of reinforcing isolation.
In this sense, Google starts to publish the so-called Community Mobility Reports COVID-19, related to each country individually, with information about what has changed in response to working from home, confinement and other measures taken to combat the pandemic, mentioned in the tecnolgica blog. However, the company guarantees that the reports are intended to be useful, but respect its privacy protocols.
In reality in Portugal, the data of March 29 show that there was a decrease of 83% of the circulation of the general population in public places such as cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, museums and other places of leisure. Even at the level of demand for basic necessities, the frequency in places such as pharmacies and supermarkets decreased by 59%. Despite requests to stay at home, access to public places such as beaches, gardens and other places to take in air, dropped by only 80%.
The drop in frequencies in public places is in line with the lower use of public transport, which in this case decreased by 78%. As regards access to the workplace, the population is more or less divided, registering a decrease of 53%. Mobility to people's homes grew by 22%.
In the gallery below you can consult the same data for each district of Portugal.
Google explains that the reports use aggregated and anonymized data to map mobility trends over time by geographic region and in the various categories mentioned. The technology will only mention the percentage, with additions and decreases, and not absolute numbers to protect privacy. In the same way that no personal information will be collected.
Initially 131 countries are targeted, but the objective is to disseminate reports at the global level, and whenever possible, at the regional level, as in Portugal. This information can help authorities make decisions about how to manage the pandemic based on changes in essential travel, thereby shaping recommendations on commercial times or offers on delivery services. In the same vein, the data can inform about the need to reinforce public transport in places with a greater affliction of people to mitigate the risk of proximity.
The aggregated and anonymized data of the users is only possible in those who have the Location History active, and which is turned off by definition. Those who have the active feature can always disable it in their Google account, and if they wish, delete their location history data from their timeline.