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New Apple Maps tool shows which cities are flaunting lockdowns

Apple is stepping up its efforts to assist government responses to the coronavirus crisis with a new Apple Maps-based web tool.

The new COVID-19 Mobility Trends Report serves up anonymised data from Apple Maps users in cities around the world. It is designed to showcase the decrease in mobility in those places.

Accessible to anyone, the tool shows walking, driving and public transport graphs similar to those we’ve been seeing on UK TV during the daily government briefings.

Apple’s data shows the drops compared with baseline levels and could help local governments with their responses to the lockdowns as pertains to easing or strengthening restrictions on movements.

Naturally, the tool brings with it some privacy concerns, but Apple is quick to point out that Maps never associates data with Apple ID accounts and, unlike Google, it doesn’t keep a history of where you’ve been. Catty, but true. Google launched a similar tool earlier this month.

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The company says: “Learn about COVID⁠-⁠19 mobility trends in countries/regions and cities. Reports are published daily and reflect requests for directions in Apple Maps. Privacy is one of our core values, so Maps doesn’t associate your data with your Apple ID, and Apple doesn’t keep a history of where you’ve been.”

So, what can we learn from the Apple Maps data? Well, in the main, Brits in major cities tend to be adhering to the lockdowns. In London, walking is down 77%, driving is also down 77% and transit is down further still on normal levels by 89%.

A graph showing walking, driving and transit rates in London

Birmingham, another coronavirus hotspot, can’t boast quite the same stats as the capital, with Brummies reducing their walking, driving and transit use by 64%, 75% and 82% respectively.

The figures were last counted on April 12, during the beautifully (and cruelly) warm and sunny Easter weekend, so as the weather takes a cooler turn this week, we can hopefully expect to see those numbers tumble again.

Beyond this public release, Apple and Google have announced they’re working together on mobile apps design to assist with contact tracing; potentially alerting people when they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. It has been floated as a potential way out of the current global lockdowns.

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