By Jose Nino – Apr 4, 2020
According to a report from CBS News, Google will be using its massive compilation of data to track the movements of people around the world.
From there, it will provide this data to policymakers and researchers in order to combat the Wuhan Virus.
The Big Tech titan published the so-called Community Mobility Reports for 131 countries. These reports feature localized data on how to travel to places like stores and parks and has been changed during the last month. In the United States’ case, Google’s data is divided on a county by county basis, which shows a massive reduction in people’s movement in urban and suburban communities —in some cases there are drops of 80 percent — with modest declines in rural areas in comparison.
Take for example, New York. According to Google’s mobility tracking data for New York witnessed a 62% decline for retail and recreation venues, 68% decline for public transit hubs like subways, buses, and train stations, 46% decline for workplaces, and 32% decline for grocery stores and pharmacies as of March 29.
In New York County, the reduction is even more dramatic. Movement dropped 86% for retail and recreation, 78% for transit, 57% for workplaces, and 51% for groceries and pharmacies.
The reports “aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19,” the company stated on the website where the reports are published. “The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.”
The company plans on updating its figures regularly. It claims that the data is designed in a manner that protects people’s anonymity.
Damian Collins, a British Parliament member who has spearheaded efforts to investigate Google’s data practices, revealed in an email to CBS News that the reports indicate social distancing’s potential to limit the Wuhan Virus’ impact. However, he advised that people be cautious about in letting Google have the power to track people’s daily lives.
“This certainly shows the impact that the social restrictions are having on daily life, and helps policy makers determine the effectiveness of these strategies,” stated Collins. “It also illustrates the level of background surveillance that has become commonplace, without people really being aware of it.”
Jason Kint, the CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents digital publishers, agreed with Collins and is skeptical of Google’s underlying motives.
“While it’s a noble effort and the anonymous presentation is interesting, it’s asking a lot to trust a company who’s entire business model is about surveillance and monetization of as much personal data across our lives as they can collect,” Kint stated.
Collins believes that Google’s tracking data may be useful for policymakers, there are still questions about potential privacy violations and future mass surveillance abuses.
“In a crisis people may consent to this, but there has never really been a public debate about whether we agree to it in principle. The aftermath of this crisis may start such a debate,” Collins remarked.
Big Tech’s influence has been the source of public discussion since Trump got elected.
It has been instrumental in suppressing dissident voices and will now likely be greatly empowered by this new crisis.Conservatives would be wise to be skeptical of both corporations and government.
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