If you share your location history, Google is tracking your quarantine activities. This past week the tech giant unveiled its “COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports” website. It’s a treasure trove of data. The mobility reports use Google Maps data to track activity in parks, grocery stores, and workplaces to understand how stay-at-home orders are working.
What Exactly Do the COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports Show?
Anyone can play around with the data for any country or region. For instance in Maryland, Google says that since February 6, the state has seen a 45% decrease in foot traffic to retail places like restaurants, shopping centers, and movie theaters, a 25% drop in grocery store and pharmacy visits, a 50% drop in public transportation use, and a 29% gain at public parks.
Activity at work and shopping centers and other places have dropped across the board. However, in the US states with no stay-at-home orders, parks have been much busier than usual, with activity up at those locations. Park activity is up more than 70% in Arkansas and Missouri, for example.
According to Google, going forward the reports will show data from two to three days prior to the current date. That’s how long it takes Google to gather the data and produce the reports. The already gathered activity reports use data from Sunday, February 19 through Sunday, March 29.
Which Countries and Regions Are Covered in Google’s Mobility Reports?
The first group of reports covers 131 countries and regions, including all 50 states in the US. Over the next few weeks Google plans to add additional countries and regions. If Google does not have statistically significant levels of data on a particular region or location, that area won’t show up in a report. As of April 3, at 10 a.m. Eastern time, reports for China and Russia were not available in the list of countries.
Google, as we know, has long tracked the regular “traffic” patterns of people around the world. They do this online and in the physical world with both software and apps. To put it mildly, Google knows everything and now you can too!
Another way to think of these reports is as the Google “we know where you are at all times” report. If you want to track how activities have changed around the world since the coronavirus outbreak, you’ll be fascinated by these mobility reports. At the very least, I would think people would be curious about their own communities. I’m also curious about favorite destinations around the world.
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