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Apple using Maps data to show if people are social distancing during coronavirus outbreak

The iPhone maker is releasing a mobility trends tool using data from Apple Maps.

Apple says the information will be available for a limited time during the coronavirus pandemic. 
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Apple on Tuesday said it's making mobility data from Apple Maps available to provide insights to governments and health officials around the world trying to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

"While protecting your privacy, we are sharing aggregated mobility data from Apple Maps to help public health authorities learn how people travel in their communities and to provide valuable insights to stop the spread of COVID-19," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet. 

The mobility report tool uses aggregated data collected from Apple Maps to show the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic. The data is generated by "counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions," the company said. 

So far, mobility reports are available for major cities and 63 countries or regions. Apple said the information will be available for a limited time. The company also addressed privacy concerns, saying it doesn't keep a history of users' locations and that data sent to Apple Maps is given "random, rotating identifiers."

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe. The World Health Organization on March 11 declared the outbreak a pandemic. There are now over 1.9 million confirmed cases globally, with more than 584,000 in the US as of Tuesday.

Many cities and countries have imposed lockdowns to slow the spread of the disease. The US federal government has extended its social distancing guidelines to April 30. Major events have been called off or postponed, and many employees are being told to work from home, while others have been laid off

Google earlier this month began releasing similar reports, which use anonymized location data collected from people's phones to chart movement trends. 

Apple and the search giant are also working together on a major effort to build contact tracing tools that use signals from people's phones to warn them if they've been near with someone who's tested positive for COVID-19.