As COVID-19 rages on, tech is helping people stay safe and informed. Today, Yelp announced that it would allow customers to report on businesses that aren’t following COVID-19 guidelines such as employees lacking masks, and it’s something Google should also be doing.

Outside of Google, Yelp is one of the biggest sources of crowd-sourced reviews and information about local businesses, and now Yelp is using its resources to provide more context about COVID-19. In many locations around the world, including in the US, COVID-19 guidelines and requirements vary, but I think we can all agree that they’re not being followed as well as they should be in a lot of places.

With its latest update, Yelp will now show not only what precautions a business is taking for COVID-19, but also how customers are seeing those precautions in action. Detailed in a blog post, Yelp will allow customers to send in reports and feedback regarding whether or not social distancing or masks are being enforced at that location, as well as if employees are wearing masks while they work.

For the time being, Yelp will only change the markers for social distancing and masks based on user feedback. In the interest of being fair, too, messages such as “staff may not wear masks” will only appear if enough users are reporting the issue. Only logged in Yelp users can report the problem too, and the mark will be evaluated every 28 days based on user reports. For businesses that are enforcing COVID-19 guidelines, Yelp will also offer a green check mark to verify that users are reporting the good actions.

User generated feedback will be available for restaurants, food, nightlife, retail and beauty businesses, as well as businesses in the automotive, professional and local services sectors. 

At launch, the orange question mark is only displayed on a couple hundred businesses out of the millions of businesses on Yelp – making it relatively uncommon as of today. We’ve also implemented advanced technology to mitigate potential misuse of the feature. 

Google also recently started showing requirements and precautions that businesses are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, based in part on community feedback. However, we’d love to see Google also add this sort of data because, as mentioned, some businesses just don’t enforce their requirements among customers or even staff.

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Ben Schoon

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