Hey Google - Are You Following Me During the Pandemic?

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Most people aren't thrilled with the idea of having their whereabouts tracked - especially when they're not aware of it. 

But what if the likes of Google  (GOOGL) - Get Report and others are doing it in the interest of the greater good - to help curb the deadly spread of the coronavirus? 

Alphabet-owned Google is indeed tracking your movements to see if you’re going to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or a neighbor’s house, or if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing and staying put amid one of the worst pandemics in more than 100 years.

Google this week released preliminary reports showing movements within communities not just in the U.S. but across the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Community Mobility Report for the U.S., as of March 29, movement to retail and recreation areas - restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and the like - had decreased by 47%.

"Ultimately, understanding not only whether people are traveling, but also trends in destinations, can help officials design guidance to protect public health and essential needs of communities," according to a blog post on the topic.

The community mobility report tracks trends in where people are, using location history from users' phones. It currently has data from 131 countries worldwide, drilling down into regions where deemed necessary such as states in the U.S. The reports review what has changed during the outbreak in terms of working from home, shelter-in-place and other policies aimed at flattening the curve.

While potentially helpful in studying transmission trends for the virus, the technology and its use has already raised red flags among privacy experts, particularly as big tech companies are already under scrutiny over their privacy policies and the personal information they collect.

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