Google's Web Surveillance Maps Global Disease Trends

The BBC reported that Google tracks people's searches for disease information and is mapping them to find trends. "Type in a search for flu in Google and you will not only find out how sick you are but your data will also be recorded on its flu monitoring service."By gathering aggregate data from millions of […]

The BBC reported that Google tracks people's searches for disease information and is mapping them to find trends. "Type in a search for flu in Google and you will not only find out how sick you are but your data will also be recorded on its flu monitoring service."

By gathering aggregate data from millions of people or by scouring the web for online news reports, blogs and chat room postings, these programs are considered to be excellent indicators of disease levels across the globe.

"We've found what people search for are actually very good indicators of influenza in a population," Google Flu Trends spokeswoman Corrie Conrad told BBC World Service's Digital Planet.

"We've found what people search for are actually very good indicators of influenza in a population," Google Flu Trends spokeswoman Corrie Conrad told BBC World Service's Digital Planet.

She added: "It can take one to two weeks for the CDC to collect data from the different doctors across the country that are part of their system but search data is updated automatically every day."

"We're essentially a web crawling tool very similar to Google in that we're scouring the web through tens of thousands of websites, every hour looking for specific clues about infectious diseases," explains HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein.

Other systems, which include the Global Public Health Intelligence Network and HealthMap, employ a different method.

They search internet news sites around the world for signs of disease.

[tags]diseases,flu,web surveillance[/tags]

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