Google Maps has begun offering user location data to help public health officials spot increase or decrease of movement across high-level categories of places. With its help, health officials with also be able to go to the ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports’ website, pick their country and download a document that chronicles the community movements.

The listed categories will include retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential areas.

“Just like how people can use Google Maps to identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded, we’re using the same aggregated, anonymised data to provide high-level insights into what has changed,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

“While we display a percentage point increase or decrease in visits, we do not share the absolute number of visits,” the company added.

To this end, Jen Fitzpatrick, Senior Vice President, Google Maps, said in a blog post: “We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymised data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.

“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.”

The report will show trends over several weeks. This information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.

The company will improvise by adding additional countries and regions. 

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