Are Lockdowns Working? Google Offers Location Data to Help Pandemic Fight


Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) is releasing data from its users to help governments track the spread of the coronavirus and assess the effectiveness of social distancing by using location information gathered from smartphones.

The location data, which the search engine giant, collects from apps such as Google Maps, is aggregated, anonymized data showing how busy various types of places are, helping to identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded. The data tracks movement trends over a time period in an array of places, including groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential locations.

“We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymized data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19,” Jen Fitzpatrick, Senior Vice President at Google Maps and Karen DeSalvo, Google’s Chief Health Officer, wrote in a company blog over the weekend. “

As a result, Google is starting to release its so-called COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, which are expected to help governments determine how effective social distancing and lockdown policies have been. In the initial rollout, Google is publishing 131 country reports with charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29. In the coming weeks more countries and regions will be added, the company said.

Wall Street analysts are unanimously bullish on Alphabet’s stock. In the last three months, all of the 37 analysts published a buy rating on the stock according to TipRanks’ database. The average analyst price target of $1,558.97 implies 43% upside potential for investors in the coming 12 months. (See Alphabet’s stock analysis on TipRanks)

Google confirmed that the mobility reports adhere to the company’s stringent privacy protocols and policies. To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point. The information is created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have chosen to turn on the location setting on their smartphones, which otherwise is off by default.

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