A woman wearing a face mask takes a selfie on a walkway in Bangkok on Friday. AFP
Facebook, which like Google has billions of users, has shared location data with non-governmental researchers that are producing similar reports for authorities in several countries. But the social media giant has not published any findings. Infectious disease specialists have said analyzing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements.
Google, which infers demographics from users’ internet use as well as some data given when signing up to Google services, said it was not reporting demographic information. The company said, though, it was open to including additional information and countries in follow-up reports.
“These reports have been developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and policies,” Dr. Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer for Google Health and Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president for Google Geo, wrote in a blog post.
Google said it published the reports to avoid any confusion about what it was providing to authorities, given the global debate that has emerged about balancing privacy-invasive tracking with the need to prevent further outbreaks.
China, Singapore, South Korea and other countries have asked residents to use apps and other technology to track their compliance with quarantines, but privacy activists argue such measures can compromise individual liberties.
Data in Google’s reports come from users who enabled Google’s “Location History” feature on their devices. The company said it adopted technical measures to ensure that no individual could be identified through the new reports.
Consultations with officials in California, Texas, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization helped inform data shared, Google said.
The company declined to comment on whether it has received any legal requests to share more detailed data to help with efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Google will begin to allow some advertisers to run ads relating to the coronavirus on its platforms, in a change to its rules on ads around “sensitive events,” according to a copy of a memo to advertising clients seen by Reuters.
The memo, sent from Google’s head of industry for elections Mark Beatty and first reported by Axios, said Google is beginning to phase in advertisers who want to run ads related to COVID-19, prioritizing those advertisers that are working directly on this issue.
This week, it will allow ads from government entities, hospitals, medical providers, and NGOs that want to get relevant information out to the public.
More than 8.53 million people have been reported infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 453,834 have died, a Reuters tally showed as of 1326 GMT on Friday.
Italy and Spain bore the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three in every four deaths on the continent, as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet's population is already under some form of lockdown in a battle to halt contagion.
But as governments lift restrictions to boost their stagnant economies, there have been widespread fears of a second wave of infections that could plunge the world back into lockdown.
Like millions of other Britons, the prime minister will be able to have a trim and a tipple on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of coronavirus lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and church.
The global oil market is rebalancing after damage to demand wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was met with curbs on output by producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), the group’s president said on Tuesday.
Global stock markets and Wall Street futures declined on Tuesday after a selloff in the US Treasury debt eased, helping to allay concern about a possible rise in interest rates.
India’s finance ministry is considering cutting excise duties on petrol and diesel to cushion the impact of record high domestic prices, three government officials close to the discussions said.