Google Gives Location Data To Feds To Catch Those Breaking Stay-At-Home Orders

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Google location data
Google has given location data to the U.S. government to catch those breaking stay-at-home orders during the global coronavirus pandemic. Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Google has publicly released an enormous amount of user location data to the U.S. government and 130 other countries across the world to help assess adherence to stay-at-home orders by tracking movements during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tech giant said it plans to publish a series of “community mobility reports” to show the types of places people are visiting across 131 countries and regions. It intends to determine trends related to how people are behaving and responding to social distancing requests.

The first report, published on April 3, showed how the coronavirus has brought hard-hit Italy and Spain to a standstill, led to increased use of grocery stores around the world and prompted a stark drop in those going out between Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day, Reuters reported.

The data showed that the drop in movement in the U.S., where state responses have varied greatly, was less than 50 percent.

“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,” Google said in a blog post.

“This information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.”

Google stressed that this aggregated data is anonymized to make sure no user data can identify a specific person’s movements. It also notes this data is only collected from users who have turned on their location history setting, an opt-in setting that is switched off by default.

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It was, however, not clear if any government had requested for more personal data as Google did not comment on this.

There were no reports for China and Iran, where Google services are blocked.