The folks at Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, have capitalized on this to create Google Flu Trends, a Web site that aims to map flu outbreaks by monitoring searches for terms like “flu,” “muscle aches” and “fever.”
We’d really like to see a solid, peer-reviewed study of how well this thing works. But until that paper is published, we’ll rely on the opinion of the head of the CDC’s flu surveillance team: Flu Trends “maps very closely to the influenza-like trends that we see in the U.S.,” she tells the WSJ.
The system uses aggregated data that can’t be traced to individual users, the New York Times says.
If you’re very, very clever and have a lot of spare time on your hands, you can build your own version of Flu Tracker for any social phenomenon you like: Google Trends, a service that’s been around for a while, allows anybody with an Internet connection to track how the volume of searches for a given term changes over time.
The best part is that, now, in today’s world, if you’re clever enough you can do your very own biopolitics, all by your self. Never before has the ability to map the aggregate actions of a population in real time been available to so many, distibuted and anonymous. (Health Blog : Using Google Searches to Map Flu Outbreaks)