Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Track where the flu is, by tracking google search terms

How might you know whether there is a flu outbreak coming to your state?  If you only knew how many people are getting flu medication... But, a reasonable proxy is tracking how many people use the Google for flu remedies.  I think this is a great use of google data, and not at all an invasion of privacy.  Sometime the urge is to protect all of your data, and search terms as your own private information (that's right, most people don't want anyone knowing that they googled "Sarah Palin bikini pictures").  But giving that information in aggregate, with no identifying information, other than state and zip code, can be really valuable, for tracking diseases. 

Here is the link, check back to see when the flu is coming ot your state...

Does it work?  Here is a retrospective analysis, using CDC figures of the past, compared to google search terms.  Nice.


1 comment:

Jon said...

Very cool. Here's a link to the paper on it:

Nature paper