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Google to publicly track movements to 'understand trips'

The UK data shows a drop of 75 per cent, compared to baseline, of trips to transit stations, and a drop of 55 per cent to workplaces

06 April 2020
Figures for UK trips
Figures for UK trips


Google is to publicly track people's movements over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Starting at the end of last week, Google said it is publishing an early release of its 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. 

The UK data shows a drop of 75 per cent, compared to baseline, of trips to transit stations, and a drop of 55 per cent to workplaces 

Google said: 'In addition to other resources public health officials might have, we hope these reports will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. 'These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies,' says Google.

'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.'

Data is published for all countries where data sources are 'statistically significant'.

The UK data shows a drop of 75 per cent, compared to baseline, of trips to transit stations, and a drop of 55 per cent to workplaces. In contrast, over the same period, the figures in Spain were down by 88 per cent for transit and 64 per cent for workplaces. 

In the UK, figures for trips involving retail and recreation were down by 85 per cent, while they dropped by 94 per cent in Spain.

However, Google warns: 'Google prepared this report to help you and public health officials understand responses to social distancing guidance related to COVID-19. This report shouldn’t be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic, or treatment purposes. It also isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travel plans. Location accuracy and the understanding of categorized places varies from region to region, so we don’t recommend using this data to compare changes between countries, or between regions with different characteristics (e.g. rural versus urban areas).'

The company has promised that individuals' privacy will be preserved.

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