Mobile phone location data in the US reveals that more people were not following stay–at–home orders, while the number of people who stayed in their home location declined over time. This may prove to be a long-term challenge for the government in tackling the spread of coronavirus.

The location data was provided by the mobile phone location data company, SafeGraph to NPR as reported. The location was based on data of the location of almost 18 million mobiles across the US locked by the coronavirus. The analysis by NPR found out the percentage of mobiles that stayed in their home location in every US County.

Coronavirus
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Almost 50 percent of the mobile phones captured by SafeGraph data stayed home on April 12, the day of Easter marking the highest point in the curve of the data. Since then there is a steady decline, while the latest numbers show that less than 40 percent stayed home, as on April 27.

SafeGraph said that the data was consistent across the United States; however, the trend of how the degree of movement is rising differs. In some of the counties, there was an extreme drop in practising social distancing, while in other places it was only mild.

"Regardless of what the orders say or the governors say, we're seeing the whole country softening up," said Nick Singh, marketing lead at SafeGraph.

Anonymized data

SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV-2 Wikimedia Commons

The data was made anonymous to protect privacy. That is, exact device locations were made hidden, showing general trends only. There are many criticisms over the collection of cellphone data such as location due to privacy concerns during COVID-19 pandemic.

However, data from SafeGraph tracks those users who "opted in" to it via mobile apps, as reported. This was also cited by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its April report on coronavirus. After cooperation from the US Transportation Department, another tracker was developed at the University of Maryland. It was found that there were similar trends as shown by SafeGraph.