Apple has launched a new mobility tool that it's been working on over recent weeks, which lets you search locations and see disaggregated data about how people's movement has changed in that location during the ongoing pandemic.
The system uses data taken from Apple Maps, but disassociated from users' accounts and details, to show the types of travel that people requested routes for, ignoring where they actually then moved, to make for a set of trends.
Apple is adamant that the tool could be of great use to those planning public policy in the wake of the pandemic, and in helping people to see the scale of behavioural change that has come about. It is also confident that this use of data shouldn't be cause for alarm on the privacy front. As its announcement says, "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."
At a time where a number of tools and tracking systems are coming in that use people's device data, it's understandable that those concerned about digital privacy are nonetheless on high alert.
Compare and contrast
Apple's tool is well worth a browse even for those of us with little say over public policy, though, giving you a good visual sense for how much has changed. For example, searching for "Paris" shows that in the French capital people's travel has fallen off a cliff since the country went into lockdown, as you'd expect, with the below handy graph illustrating the change.
Comparing this to other international cities gives you a quick sense for how and when people started to change en masse - for example, searching Los Angeles gives you a picture of a city that hasn't locked down to the same extent, and did so later in the day, as you'd expect.
Those who want to dig deeper than the graphs Apple's tool produces can download a CSV file containing all the data, if they like, making it open to further analysis by those with the time and inclination to do so.