Apple Releases Mobility Data Helping The Health Authorities Map The Effectiveness Of COVID-19 Lockdowns

  • Apple announced to release its maps data displaying the effectiveness of the coronavirus lockdowns.
  • The data is compiled from the information extracted through Maps data of iPhone users which is displayed in aggregates on a public page.
On Tuesday, Apple announced to publish its mobility data which would be helpful for public health organizations and authorities to determine the effect of coronavirus lockdowns on whether the population is practicing social distancing to slow down the spread of the virus.

Apple maps come installed on every iPhone model by default and the company compiles the data by calculating the number of routing requests made by iPhone users on Apple maps application. Apple stated that this compiled data is then compared to the data gathered in the past which helps to determine the impact of lockdowns on the number of people driving, walking, or using any public transport service to move.

The data compiled by the company will be displayed in aggregates to hide the routing requests made by separate users and the location of these individual iPhone users will not be traced, Apple stated while discussing the privacy concerns of its customers. Apple said that the company updates this data daily to be compared with a date before most of the lockdowns were imposed in the United States.

The US imposed lockdowns on more than 90% of the Americans in mid-January and various lockdowns were imposed around the globe during January. According to Apple, this data will be uploaded on a public site and will display information for big cities and other 63 countries or regions.

The company is providing the data in percentage form of user’s requests compared to the information gathered in mid-January before the lockdowns were imposed instead of publishing the exact number of user requests or a definite number of individuals moving around.

The data shows that the routing requests made for driving directions were reduced by 70% on April 12 and the transit directions requests decreased by 84% as compared to requests data as of January 13 in the San Francisco Bay region. Requests for driving directions and transit directions were dropped by 69% and 89% in the NY city.

Civic health authorities in CA stated on April 11 that were benefitting from public movement data to determine the coronavirus state’s lockdowns effectiveness but it was not made clear whether the data used by them was Apple’s data or not.

Apple’s data is finite compared to Google’s data which the company provided to public health organizations. Google published the movement data of masses visiting recreational sites, public transport stations, grocery marts, and workplaces for more than 131 countries which compared information gathered in recent weeks to a period of five weeks earlier this year Google is providing data on a global level.

While Apple provides information for a less number of cities, territories, and nations and does not cover entire US states including states where lockdowns were not imposed such as North and South Dakota and the company also does not record movements where the user has not requested directions from Apple Maps. Apple is collaborating with civic health organizations to provide more useful data.

Read next: Google And Apple Won't Allow The Governments To Mandate Users To Use The COVID-19 Tracker, It Will Remain 'Opt-In' Only
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