Google publishes mobility reports to show population movements around the world
Google has begun publishing "COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports", which analyse the location data it collects from smartphones to create maps of aggregated changes in the movement of populations around the world. Google claims the data is "anonymised" via differential privacy, and suggests that governments can use the results of its analysis to understand not only whether people are travelling but where, so they can adapt transport policies to ensure adequate distancing. It is unclear how useful this approach is, in that it reflects only people with Android smartphones; critics suggest that telecom operator data is more representative and therefore gives a more accurate picture. It is also unclear whether Google has legal consent to track people to collect this data in the first place.
Writer: Natasha Lomas