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Apple publishes Maps data to show how lockdowns affect movement

The information, available on a public website, shows changes for major cities and 63 countries or regions.

In Melbourne, Apple’s data shows driving requests are down 53 per cent, walking requests down 61 per cent and transit requests down 83 per cent. In Sydney lockdown orders have had slightly less of an effect overall, with driving requests down 42 per cent, walking requests down 58 per cent and transit requests down 77 per cent.

Apple does not provide the absolute number of requests or a specific number of people moving, instead expressing the data as a percentage of requests compared with its mid-January baseline.

Aggregate data helps to protect identity and still identifies individual travel patterns thus avoiding some of the mistakes of countries like South Korea, criticised for privacy violations, says Jason Farley, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Farley, who is an infectious disease-trained nurse epidemiologist, said the data from the app offers insights into movement right now, yet its impact on maintaining social distancing and making public health decision remains unclear.

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Apple’s data is more limited than what Google has made available to public health officials.

Google nearly two weeks ago released data on more than 131 countries, comparing trips in recent weeks to recreational venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces with a five-week period earlier this year.

For several countries Google offers county-level data, which is helpful in countries where lockdown orders are issued by states or counties.

The Apple data, by contrast, shows only data for some cities, regions and countries and does not show results for entire states.

The Apple data also does not capture trips where the user has not asked for directions from Apple Maps.

Apple said it is continuing to work with public health officials to identify what other data types or trends may be helpful.

Reuters, with staff reporters

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