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Nova Scotians are less compliant during COVID-19 – Can the Government & Google control us?

Yesterday, Google announced that they are sharing their anonymized data with the government about Social Mobility during the COVID-19 crisis. Read about Google Mobility Report for Canada by following the link below.

The most obvious result is that Nova Scotians are much less compliant than the national average. Can we afford it? Do we really want to spread the virus at a higher rate than the national average? Do we really not care? This could alarming, given that we have almost 20% of our population above the age of 65 and 15% are between the age of 55 and 64. These are the most vulnerable within our community, combined they constitute 35% of the population. Do we really want to put them at risk?

What are we doing? +95% increase in our mobility in Parks vs. a -16% national average. We only increased our residential presence by 5% whereas the national average is 14%.

Given these numbers, could we really blame the government if they want to understand better the status to see how to control the virus? … or us?

Aren’t we giving a legitimate concern for the people in charge to seek new measures?

What could this mean for us?

As Google mentioned, the data is anonymized, meaning that they are not providing any personal identity information. Rather, they are saying, X number of people are in this specific location, or we saw an X% presence increase/decrease in this area.

No need to be alarmed, if you were already using google maps, then you are already accepting the terms of using your data in an anonymous way. So, what could this all potentially mean.

Other than what the declared use cases, such as understanding if at a specific public transportation location we have more people to fit in a bus or in a train based on the 6 feet (2m) social distancing, then they would send more buses or trains to comply. Which is really great! This is how technology and BIG DATA are put at our service. To make the best decisions within a specific point in time.

However, what could be the other use cases, which we should consider, and which as citizens or residents, could impact us.

Use case: The state of emergency order of not having more than five people with strict exceptions

Of course the law enforcement agencies do not have the capability, and honestly are not expected, to monitor every single public place, or retail store, or business office. This is impossible and we will be fooling ourselves if we had such expectations. Human resources are limited.

Using Google mobility services, the people in charge could know how many people are located at a specific time at a specific location. Then alarm triggers could be put in place, and then dispatch the right law enforcement authority to the location to investigate.

This way, we as citizens and residents, will be socially responsible to socially distance ourselves. Why? Simply because, if we do not do so, and we are breaking the law, then an alarm would be triggered, law enforcement would be dispatched, and we would be fined. As individuals, and then as a business, should the business and the individuals are breaking any laws.

If the people in charge, will use the Big Data in the right way, coupling it with Geo-fencing, then real time heat maps could be created to visually identify the areas.

Sample heat map of Downtoen Halifax. Source: The Coast
Sample heat map: not reflecting data from Google Mobility Report

(Explanation of Geo-fencing: the fact of identifying an area on a map and setting triggers when an event occur within this specific area.)

Should we be worried? Should we be fighting it? The answer is NO! As long as it is anonymous data, we shouldn’t worry about it. The future is about technology, the future is about big data and analytics. Data is information, but structured data is KNOWLEDGE! The more knowledgeable we are the better decision we can take.

Embrace it, as this is just the start. If you thought that the Hollywood movies such as RoboCop, The Fifth Element, Minority Report, and many others were only about science fiction. Well, think again… The authors and producers were visionaries. We are living in the future. We have flying cars, we have human chips, we have big brother surveillance, we have cyborg law enforcement, we have almost all what these movies have imagined.

If you are a law abiding citizen or resident, then there is nothing to fear. Embrace it, work with it, and see how you can use all this technology to your benefit.

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