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Google’s support for public health policy: The COVID-19 community mobility reports


The COVID-19 community mobility reports provided by Google offer insights into how national human mobility has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19 in 131 countries worldwide. Google distills these insights from the data of users who have opted-in to the “Location History” in their Google Account. In particular, the datasets show human mobility trends over a period of several months with most recent data collected up to 2-3 days prior to the day the dataset is generated.. If the privacy threshold is not met (when a specific area is not busy enough to ensure user anonymity) the reports do not display any changes throughout the day.


The COVID-19 community mobility reports highlight how the number of visits and length of stay change over time on the national level in areas such as grocery stores, parks, beaches, pharmacies and drug stores. The Google research team underlines that the location accuracy and the understanding of categorised places varies from region to region, and they do not recommend using the data for comparisons across countries or regions. Overall, the COVID-19 community mobility reports illustrate the immense potential of the wide scope of Google data for innovative migration statistics that allows for  conclusions to be drawn on human mobility behaviour worldwide. Furthermore, provided the data is available, this approach can be replicated for other research areas related to understanding mobility behaviour on the local, national, international and global level.


(Image: © google.com)

Last modified
20 May 2021
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