Analysis | The Technology 202: Apple is now helping officials track how well coronavirus social distancing works – The Washington Post

Analysis | The Technology 202: Apple is now helping officials track how well coronavirus social distancing works – The Washington Post

with Tonya Riley

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Apple is the latest tech company to tap its troves of consumer data to help public officials fight the coronavirus. 

The company yesterday unveiled a new tool that pulls data from its Maps service to help officials measure how effective social distancing measures are around the world. The tool tracks how citizens’ driving, walking or public transit habits are changing based on their searches for directions to places.  

The data is presented in an anonymous, aggregated form, and officials can view it down to the city level. For instance, it shows that in Washington, requests for public transit directions – for instance, by bus or subway – declined 83 percent since January 13. Even requests for walking directions were down 66 percent, suggesting that the restrictions are having a significant effect. 

This tool can also compare the effects of social distancing between cities, or even between countries. 

Screenshot of Apple mobility trends in Washington. 

Washington is increasingly looking to tech companies such as Apple as it seeks more data to understand whether social distancing policies are working – and make crucial decisions about how and when to re-open parts of the economy. 

But the companies are walking a fine line as they try to balance pressure from governments to
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