Google begins releasing location data to help public health officials track how people are responding to lockdowns

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FILE – In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 file photo, the logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the entrance hall of Google France in Paris. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said Tuesday Feb. 4, 2020, they have launched separate inquiries into Google and dating app Tinder over their processing of user data, in a fresh round of regulatory scrutiny aimed at tech companies. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

LONDON – Google has started releasing location data to help public health officials track how people are responding to lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. tech giant said Friday that it’s publishing aggregated, anonymized data for 131 countries and regions to highlight movement trends over time.

The information is gathered from Google Maps or the search giant’s other services, but no personal details, such as an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is disclosed. Google plans to update the reports regularly, with a lag of two to three days.

The reports chart whether more or less people are flowing into shops, parks, grocery stores, pharmacies, subway stations and offices. The company said it has heard from health officials who say the readings could be helpful for making critical decisions on how to fight the virus.

For example, “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,” Google said.

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