Google Launches Social Distancing Tracking Site Using Location Data

Google has launched a new website that takes users' location data and uses it to track how communities are dealing with social distancing guidelines. The tech giant will release COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, which highlight movement trends in six different categories: retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.

In a blog post, Google said that the data has been anonymized and will not track the exact number of people who are out and about. Instead, it will highlight an increase or decrease in the average number of people who are moving about in each of the six different areas.

"The insights are created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default," Google explained in the blog post. "Users who have Location History turned on can choose to turn the setting off at any time from their Google Account, and can always delete Location History data directly from their Timeline."

The initial reports will cover 131 countries and regions, but the tech company hopes to release data on more areas in the future.

They believe the data can be used by local health departments to craft specific social distancing plans and determine where the next COVID-19 hot spots will be.

"For example, this information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings. 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. Ultimately, understanding not only whether people are traveling, but also trends in destinations, can help officials design guidance to protect public health and essential needs of communities."

To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

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