D.C. gets an 'A' while Wyoming earns an 'F' for following coronavirus stay-at-home advice, based on the locations of tens of millions of phones
If you have a smartphone, you’re probably contributing to a massive coronavirussurveillance system.
And it’s revealing where Americans have — and haven’t — been practicing social distancing.
On Tuesday, a company called Unacastthat collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home.
How do they know that? Efforts to track public health during the coronavirus pandemic are a reminder of the many ways phones reveal our personal lives, both as individuals and in the aggregate. Unacast’s location data comes from games, shopping and utility apps that tens of millions of Americans have installed on their phones — information the company normally analyzes for retailers, real estate firms and marketers. It’s part of a shadowy world of location tracking that consumers often have little idea is going on.
Unacast assigned an A grade to places that show at least a 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled. On March 20, the first day in its database, the states as a whole that earned an A included Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont. Big reductions in movement are also visible in areas hit hard by the virus, such as New York City (a 57 percent change) and California’s Santa Clara county (a 54 percent change).
Unacast deemed anything less than a 10 percent change an F. Only Wyoming earned that grade.
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Scoreboard: Covid-19 Social Distancing Scoreboard — Unacast