Apple launches Mobility Trends Reports to help mitigate coronavirus spread

Apple will report movements but promises not to store identifying data

Apple has launched a Mobility Trends Reports tool using Apple Maps that it hopes will help mitigate the spread of coronavirus by providing local governments and health authorities with useful insights. Governments may also use this tool as a means to create new public policies by showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or using public transportation. Apple will publish daily reports reflecting requests for directions in Apple Maps.

The tool uses aggregated data collected from Apple Maps to develop mobility trends in major cities in 63 countries. The tool can generate information by tapping into the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. Data sets are then compared to reflect a change in the volume of people getting behind the wheel, walking or using public transit.

For example, the tool indicates New York City saw a 64% reduction in vehicular traffic between Jan. 13 and April 13. Meanwhile, foot traffic and public transportation use have also dropped by 81% and 87%, respectively, in the same period.

Apple also shared that it won’t keep a profile of users’ movements or associate user mobility data with Apple IDs. Instead, the company will leverage random rotating identifiers designed to reset continually.

“Apple has built privacy into the core of Maps from the beginning. Data collected by Maps, like search terms, navigation routing, and traffic information, is associated with random, rotating identifiers that continually reset, so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches,” Apple shared.

The launch of the company’s Mobility Trends Reports is just another way Apple is stepping up in the digital fight against the coronavirus. Apple recently launched a joint effort with Google and also plans to add coronavirus test site locations to its Maps app.

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