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Company uses GPS data to measure how people are social distancing

A location data company called Unacast mapped the U.S. using location data to see how much people are still traveling as social distancing increasingly becomes the nation's watchword.

Posted: Mar 25, 2020 5:51 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2020 10:44 AM

NEW YORK — A New York based company that deals in "human mobility data" has created a scorecard for how well Americans are practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, using location data to tell if people are cutting back on travel.

Unacast is hosting the "COVID-19 Location Data Toolkit" on its website, creating a map of the U.S. that is viewable by state and by county.

"COVID-19 is upending our health, our economy, and our world," the company says. "Organizations in every sector are turning to location data and human mobility insights to measure its impact, create pivot strategies, and predict recovery."

The Social Distancing Scoreboard itself claims to determine how well people are following requests (and now orders) to stay at home. Based on Unacast's data, Oregon isn't doing very well — and areas of southern and eastern Oregon are some of the worst offenders.

As a whole, Oregon received a C grade, cutting down on travel by 25 percent. On a more granular level, Douglas County, Klamath, and Lake counties received an F grade, actually increasing travel in some cases. Jackson County received a D, while Josephine and Curry counties did a little better and received a C grade.

While it's unknown if Unacast's graphs account for this, it's quite likely that rural areas are going to see more travel (and a lower grade) for a fairly mundane reason — everything, including the essential services that we all need to access once in a while, is usually a lot farther away from home.

Since Unacast's business is the proprietary use of location data, the company isn't incredibly specific on its website about how and where it gets its information, but they say that they pride themselves in respecting privacy rights.

"Born out of Norway, we set privacy at the forefront of all products and insights we create," the company says. According to Unacast, they are compliant with the European Union's data protection and privacy laws, and are working on becoming compliant with California's 2018 Consumer Privacy Act.

You can test out the Social Distancing Scoreboard interactive map below.

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