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Google publishes movement data to bolster war against coronavirus

George Avalos, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google on Friday disclosed it is publishing the information it harvests from smartphones to help inform government officials how people's movements are changing in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The search giant said it has started to provide aggregated information about people's visits to stores, groceries, pharmacies, recreation sites, parks, transit stations, workplaces and homes for an array of locations, including movement trends in the United States and California overall, as well as in individual counties.

"Starting today we're publishing an early release of our 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," Google stated in a blog post on Friday.

Google's mobility report revealed that travelers in the Greater Bay Area's five counties -- Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, San Mateo County, and San Francisco -- have all increased their visits to residences to a greater degree than is the case in either the United States or California, according to this news organization's review of the Google information.

People in the Bay Area also have slashed their visits to workplaces, restaurants, and recreation sites to a much greater degree than people in California or the United States.

"The reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places," Google stated in the blog post.

 

With one exception -- visits to parks -- people in the five counties of the Greater Bay reduced their visits to non-residential locations compared with what happened in California overall, the analysis of the Google statistics shows. The changes in travel patterns were measured against a baseline that Google had previously established.

Plus, people in the Greater Bay Area are visiting residential locations to a much greater extent than is the case in Southern California, California, and the United States. That could indicate that people are engaging in sheltering efforts to a heightened degree in the Bay Area, the Google information reveals. This news organization included Southern California's Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Diego County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.

Residential sites: Those visits increased by 17.8% in the Greater Bay Area, 15.4% in Southern California, 15% in California, and 12% in the United States, Google reported. Residential visits increased by 21% in San Francisco, 19% in San Mateo County, 17% in Alameda County and Santa Clara County, and by 15% in Contra Costa County.

Retail and recreational sites: Those visits were slashed by 60.6% in the Greater Bay Area, 48.2% in Southern California, 50% in California, and 47% in the United States. San Francisco travelers reduced visits to these locations by 75% and Santa Clara County travelers cut those trips by 62 percent.

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