Google Tracking Health Searches For Disease Mapping!

The BBC reported that Google tracks people's searches for disease information and is mapping them to find trends. While this may work as a way to gather insights in to where diseases are occurring, there is a big question on the privacy issues involved.

"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," the BBC reported.

"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"

Apparently this is not just limited to Google, though other researchers use searches of online news sites to gather information.

"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.

Guess if you want to get a city quarantined you could just roll in with a few people and start doing searches for Black Plague symptoms. What about adding some freelance articles for the local websites about disease outbreaks and panic or how to mass treat a disease. Do it from a computer in the local hospital and could the CDC trucks come rolling in?

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.