Cell Phone Data Indicates Social Distancing Works

Aug 2, 2020

If you have a cell phone with apps, chances are your location is being tracked at any given time. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, publicly available cell phone data is being used to analyze how practicing social distancing- or refusing to  --indicates the rise and spread of COVID-19.

Cell phone location data is also used to track physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit Tiffany Eckert

Sean Lansing is a director at the market research firm TOP Data. They’ve analyzed cell phone location data starting with Oregon’s Stay At Home orders in late March, through phased re-openings, until now. Here’s what they found:

“As person to person interactions have increased, there has been a corresponding increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases,” Lansing said.

The drop and rise in person to person interactions is captured through cell phone location data. This corresponds with COVID-19 case spikes,
Credit TOP Data

The firm has created graphs of all 50 states, with a red line representing close, daily human interactions- crossing a grid of new COVID-19 cases.   

Cell phone data shows Oregon had a dramatic drop in personal interactions at the beginning of the pandemic. However, since that low mark, numbers have nearly doubled. Incidentally, that increase mirrors the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in many counties, including Lane.

Cell phone location data is used in many ways, including marketing. Lansing said he hopes the data analysis his firm has performed will serve as an encouragement to limit person to person contacts and stop the spread of the virus.

To see cell phone location/COVID -19 case status for any state in the U.S: