Apple has launched a new website that charts how well people around the globe are adhering to social distancing guidelines intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. The "Mobility Trends Report" uses anonymized data from Apple Maps to show how often people are turning to the navigation app to get directions, which could suggest they're not staying at home as much as they should.
The tool allows you to input any city or region and see trendlines of how much people have been moving in recent weeks. As you can see in the chart below for Athens, the volume of people walking and driving has dropped off significantly since January 13th, the date from which Apple starts measuring. The data is updated daily, according to the company.
Stay at home, or else — Apple has designed this tool with healthcare professionals and governments in mind, so more comprehensive data can be downloaded in the form of a CSV spreadsheet. Many cities around the globe have been cracking down by ordering people to remain at home for all but the most essential travel, like getting groceries. Some cities are fining residents as much as $6,000 for violating enforced isolation mandates. The data from Apple could be helpful in determining whether local enforcement measures are working effectively or need to be stepped up.
Apple says that the data it's collecting from Apple Maps isn't tied to any Apple ID, so if you're someone who isn't following the guidelines you don't need to worry. You absolutely should stay at home, but Apple won't be snitching on you. Still, if officials see too many people, moving restrictions could get stricter for everyone.
Tech's pandemic solutions — Google announced a similar initiative back in March. The new website also comes shortly after Apple teamed up with Google to develop a "contract tracing" app that will inform officials whenever someone comes into contact with a person who's tested positive for COVID-19. Users who've tested positive voluntarily indicate as much in the app, which will use Bluetooth to ping other nearby phones and generate a log of all close contacts. The app will be voluntary to use, and both companies intend to build the functionality directly into their mobile operating systems in the coming months.
Apple has said it will work hard to ensure privacy is maintained, though we have yet to see the fine details of how the app will be implemented and how long data will be stored.