India Sees a Huge Drop in Visits to Public Places, Google Data Reveals



Google has released a mobility report measuring the response to social distancing measures taken by governments around the world, including India, using location data from its users. Scores of countries have asked their citizens to stay at home and locked down public spaces. In its report for India, the trends have been categorised in six parts including retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. The report said that visits by India-based Google users to places like parks, shops, restaurants, bus, metro, and railway stations saw a huge decline by the end of March. Google has said “COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports” highlight the effectiveness of the public health strategy of the administrations.

According to Google’s report for India, there was a 77 percent decrease in visits to retails and recreational places, which includes restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theatres in India at the end of March. Similarly, visits to grocery markets and pharmacies also declined by 65 percent. Parks across the country witnessed a 57 percent decrease in visits by the people.

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The trends also displayed a decrease of 71 percent in visits to public transit stations like bus stops, metro stations, and railway stations. Indians also visited less to their workplaces as there was a 47 percent dip in those visits.

If there was one place that saw a jump in the report, it was home. Visits to the places of residence increased by 22 percent during the period analysed.

The trends by Google show percentage point increase and decrease in visits. Google said that in Google Maps, the company uses the same type of “aggregated, anonymised data showing how busy certain types of places are—helping identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded.”

The reports show movements of people in 131 countries and “chart movement trends over time by geography.” The change in the percentage shows “how visits and length of stay at different places change compared to a baseline,” according to Google. Changes for each day are compared to a baseline value for that day of the week. The report analysed the visits from February 16 to March 29.

While tech companies are using technology to help combat COVID-19 pandemic, increase in the use of location data has also given rise to concerns among privacy advocates about surveillance the safety of data. Google said that it followed privacy protocols and that “no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point.”


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