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Google 'Mobility Reports' Show Traffic Plunging At LA County Restaurants, Transit Hubs

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - You may never look at the location settings on your phone quite the same way again.

Google says the number of people gathering in Los Angeles County restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, and theme parks has plummeted by half thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown, according to data released Friday.

Earlier this week, Google launched its new COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports using what it says is "aggregated, anonymized data" to chart movement trends over time by geography over 130 countries and states, including California.

The reports are aimed at analyzing how statewide stay-at-home policies have impacted the way communities gather, according to the search engine's blog.

Moblity trends for places like museums, libraries, and movie theaters plunged by 51%, while mobility trends for parks and beaches dropped by 48%, the tool showed.

Subway, bus and other transit stations saw a 54% drop, while mobility trends at places of residence across the state was up 17%.

While much of the data is unsurprising amid the statewide coronavirus lockdown, it's unclear exactly what application the tool has, considering Google's own blog states the report " shouldn't be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic, or treatment purposes."

Orange County also saw similar numbers, including a 52% drop in retail and recreation trends and a 44% decline in mobility trends at workplaces.

Google says the reports use data from about two to three days' prior and will not share the absolute number of visits to the various categories of places. No personally identifiable information, such as an individual's location, contacts or movements, will be made available, according to the company.

But privacy advocates say they worry about the potential leaking of data using IP addresses that may identify individual users - a concern that Google says can be addressed simply by users turning off the Location History setting on their phones, which is off by default.

Users who have Location History turned on can choose to turn the setting off at any time from their Google Account, and can always delete Location History data directly from their timeline, the company said.

Click here to read Google's California Mobility Report.

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