Apple is taking an offensive approach when it comes to the global coronavirus pandemic and the disease it causes, COVID-19. In its latest move, the company is making mobility data available from Apple Maps.
In a press release sent out today by Apple, the company has revealed that it is making mobility data available via Apple Maps to keep tabs on trends not only for cities, but also countries and entire regions. The new tool is designed to indicate any trends that might be present, and showcase that data in Apple Maps. Apple says this data can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by providing helpful insights to local governments and health authorities. The company says it can also be used to help build a foundation for building new public policies by showing how people are using public transportation, walking, and driving.
But, most importantly, individual user privacy and security is still a top priority for Apple:
Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, and Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been. Using aggregated data collected from Apple Maps, the new website indicates mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions. The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world. Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.
The company notes in its press release that privacy has been a major tent pole feature for Apple Maps right from the beginning, and says that any data collected from the app or service is randomized with rotating identifiers that reset on a continuous basis. That includes any data from searches, navigation routing, and more. Basically, Apple is outlining that it does not have a profile for each Apple Maps user with their movements and searches.
The rest of the press release reflects on Apple’s additional efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. That includes sourcing over 20 million masks for healthcare workers. The company has also created its own Face Shield. And for first responders, Apple has developed an app alongside Stanford to help screen their symptoms and even schedule testing if needed. There is also the app and website based on CDC guidance.
In addition to all that:
Recent updates to Apple apps and services help customers find the information they need quickly and easily using Siri and Apple Maps. Siri Audio Briefs for COVID-19 help customers receive the latest news and information about the pandemic through short podcasts from trusted news providers and Siri can also provide guidance and resources from the CDC if asked, “How do I know if I have coronavirus?” In Apple Maps, grocery, food delivery and medical services are prioritized when searching nearby, and a curated collection of telehealth apps are available on the App Store. Apple is also providing content and services to parents, teachers and IT teams to help with the transition to virtual learning, including one-on-one training and numerous online resources.
Apple also notes that it has launched a joint partnership with Google to release a contact tracing effort, which will include apps for both iOS and Android devices that can help with mitigating the spread of the virus.
What do you think of Apple’s efforts in this regard? Happy to see the company doing so much to try and help? Let us know in the comments!