New Brief Released: What Is Mobility Data? Where Is It Used?

Andrew J. Zahuranec
Apr 15 · 2 min read

by Andrew J. Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Young, Aditi Ramesh, and Brennan Lake

PHOTO: Unsplash/Nikolay Likomanov is licensed under CC0

Mobility data is data about the geographic location of a device passively produced through normal activity. Throughout the pandemic, public health experts and public officials have used mobility data to understand patterns of COVID-19’s spread and the impact of disease control measures. However, privacy advocates and others have questioned the need for this data and raised concerns about the capacity of such data-driven tools to facilitate surveillance, improper data use, and other exploitative practices.

In April, The GovLab, Cuebiq, and the Open Data Institute released The Use of Mobility Data for Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which relied on several case studies to look at the opportunities, risks, and challenges associated with mobility data. Today, we hope to supplement that report with a new resource: a brief on what mobility data is and the different types of data it can include. The piece is a single page to allow decision-makers to easily read it. It provides real-world examples from the report to illustrate how different data types can be used in a responsible way.

Our hope is that this piece can introduce some clarity on a complex and often confusing topic. As the brief suggests, mobility data refers not to one type of data but, many different ways to describe geographic location. It varies by collection method, format, and context. Consequently, mitigating risks and governing use requires organizations to develop similarly varied approaches.

We invite you to learn more by reading the full piece here.

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