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Google to release tracking data to help policy-makers evaluate COVID-19 measures

Last Updated Apr 3, 2020 at 9:44 am EDT

The local Google office is seen on November 1, 2018 in Montreal. Google will start releasing reports on how much traffic increases or decreases across some Canadian spaces in a bid to help public health officials determine how successful COVID-19 and physical distancing measures have been. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

TORONTO — Google will start releasing movement tracking reports in a bid to help public health officials determine how successful physical distancing measures have been in the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The international tech giant says it will compile aggregated and anonymized data to chart movement trends at retail and recreation spaces, groceries, pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential areas.

The frequent reports won’t identify individual mobile devices, but will track fluctuations in the number of visits to each kind of space so politicians and public health leaders can assess whether work-from-home and physical distancing orders are working.

Google says the reports could help shape recommendations on business hours, inform delivery service offerings or indicate the need for more buses or trains, which would help people to stay further apart from one another.

Google will make the reports available in 131 countries and will offer both provincial and national breakdowns in Canada.

To maintain privacy, Google says it will only base the reports on users who have opted in to sharing their location history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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