Google is monitoring our social distancing failures

“Some Countries Are Taking Social Distancing More Seriously Than Others” (Bloomberg) contains some fascinating data collected by Google. They can figure out whether or not people in any given country are naughty (not socially distant) or nice (socially distant): “In Italy, public places are a lot quieter than before the spread of coronavirus. In Sweden, they’re busier.”

Google and the journalist/editors, of course, assume that more socially distant = more righteous. More social is depicted in red and less social is depicted in green.

Sweden is just packed with covidiots milling about together and transmitting the lethal virus! But also Germany, supposedly shut down. Americans heeded the call to take to their sofas. We love to consider ourselves superior to Mexicans. And every Hollywood Democrat wants to escape Trump via emigration to Canada, not Mexico, but Mexicans have changed their behavior far more than Americans or Canadians.

7 thoughts on “Google is monitoring our social distancing failures

  1. I’ve always left my phone home as much as possible. Been meaning to build a small Faraday box for the times when I do bring my phone out in the world.

  2. Google doesn’t claim to be incorporating any estimate for how densely populated these places are, i.e. no direct measurement of different-households’ phones’ proximity (scale up your proximity estimate for people by the appropriate percentage given not everyone has a phone snitching to Google)

  3. (U.S. has some less densely populated areas that Hong Kong doesn’t)

    Further, does Hong Kong have dog parks? Maybe some countries just have more places tagged as ‘public park’.

  4. I suppose they can at least say “you’re using these places less than before. Who’s a good boy!”

  5. I wonder what this is going to be like when we move from passive, anonymized data gathering to active, invasive quarantine and social-distancing enforcement. Will your phone start beeping and send text messages to everyone in your immediate vicinity, with a bounce to the local constabulary? It seems like it’s only a matter of time before we get the Chinese QR-code-and-traffic-light treatment. How soon before we start linking the testing data to the phones, with everything enforced by court orders, fines and imprisonment? If you can’t reopen the country until you know who has been exposed, who has been tested, and what the results were, it seems to me there won’t be any other way.

  6. Superbug: Ben Adida has been looking at the Apple/Google API for contact tracing, and he’s optimistic that contact tracing can be done without violating privacy.

    6/ the key idea is we don’t actually need geo data. We just need to know who was in contact with whom during a 2-week span. Whether it was at the gym or on the bus doesn’t matter for our purposes.

    And we don’t need a big dystopian database. Much of the data can stay on phones.

  7. The contact tracing is, in fact, the prime tool for suppressing dissent of any kind.

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