Skip navigation

Google searches were first indication of outbreak

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Mexico flu queries spiked in mid-April ...Read the full article

This conversation is closed

  1. T F from Guelph, Canada writes: This is a wonderful discovery, and it can help pinpoint the origin of the outbreak.
  2. Jon K from Canada writes: Does anyone remember when this service was first announced? There were cries of protest about "how dare they invade my privacy" "Google's gone too far!" "Google? ...more like Big Bother!"

    Funny how it turns out that it's actually beneficial....
  3. Gunther Eysenbach from Toronto, Canada writes: This kind of misinformation makes me angry. It is factually wrong to imply that Google made a "discovery" but nobody wanted to listen. The truth is that nobody within Google monitored their data, and they analyzed their data only in hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20, and a lot of other data sources could be analyzed retrospectively.

    And here is another newsflash for ignorant journalists: The idea to look at search data as early warning systems for flu outbreaks is not a Google invention, but was actually already proposed over 3 years ago (published 2006), right here in Canada, right here in Toronto, by researchers from the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation and U of T. But I guess, nobody was paying attention to that as well! (only Google did, developing Flutrends based on these ideas):

    Eysenbach G. Infodemiology: tracking flu-related searches on the web for syndromic surveillance. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2006:244-248
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=17238340

    Eysenbach G. Infodemiology and Infoveillance: Framework for an Emerging Set of Public Health Informatics Methods to Analyze Search, Communication and Publication Behavior on the Internet
    J Med Internet Res 2009;11(1):e11
    URL: http://www.jmir.org/2009/1/e11

    The Virus Chasers
    http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/35061.html
    CIHR Newsarticle (2007) about the infodemiology / infoveillance work at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto
  4. Joseph Whistle from Canada writes: Next thing you know, government demand access to patterns that people put in search engines. Anything out of the ordinary is a sign something's up. At the same time, we must not feel we're being watched. A free thriving healthy society, needs to be unrestricted.
    So long as people know they're not personally being watched, and only statistics are used, then perhaps this can be a useful tool.
    The problem is that what if bad things happen without people googling things? Is Google now going to define what we'll be kept safe from or not?
  5. Jon K from Canada writes: I get the impression that Google will only be 'A' tool to determine what we're being safe from, not the only tool (or even the most important). I also believe that when google first mentioned this idea would only monitor what is being searched, not who is searching it. Of course that could change, but just in case it does I've got my tinfoil hat that will surely prevent any danger.

Comments are closed

Thanks for your interest in commenting on this article, however we are no longer accepting submissions. If you would like, you may send a letter to the editor.

Report an abusive comment to our editorial staff

close

Alert us about this comment

Please let us know if this reader’s comment breaks the editor's rules and is obscene, abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, defamatory, profane or racially offensive by selecting the appropriate option to describe the problem.

Do not use this to complain about comments that don’t break the rules, for example those comments that you disagree with or contain spelling errors or multiple postings.

Back to top