Apple has announced the availability of a mobility data trends tool from Apple Maps, to help with COVID-19 efforts around the globe. The data is shared for the purpose of helping governments and health authorities to understand movement patterns and formulate strategies to plan policies.
The tool is available at https://www.apple.com/covid19/mobility and allows searching for different countries and cities. A graph is shown for each selected location, with data divided by transportation modes which include driving, transit and walking. The data is also available as a CSV file, with information for every city and country that Apple has data for.
As Apple Maps is not available in as many locations as Google Maps, Apple’s mobility data does not provide as much information. It also does not break down reports based on the type of location that users are spending more time in. For example, Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports even provide data on the type of location such as residential, parks, transit stations, etc.
Before Apple CEO Tim Cook receives another letter from senators regarding privacy, Apple has clarified its stance on privacy on the mobility tool page.
Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values, so Maps doesn’t associate your data with your Apple ID, and Apple doesn’t keep a history of where you’ve been.
The company also goes into details on how Apple is generating the data and collecting it anonymously without individual identification of any user. The data is not associated with any user’s Apple ID either.
This data is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions in select countries/regions and cities. Data that is sent from users’ devices to the Maps service is associated with random, rotating identifiers so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches. Data availability in a particular country/region or city is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.
Companies like Apple and Google have done the right thing by making anonymous data available to help concerned authorities make informed decisions regarding lockdowns and other policies. Through this on-going COVID-19 pandemic, authorities need all the help and data they can get, and it is good to see these tech giants playing their part, while respecting the privacy of their customers.
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