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There is a new common symptom of the flu, in addition to the usual aches, coughs, fevers and sore throats. It turns out that a lot of ailing Americans enter phrases like "flu symptoms" into Google and other search engines before they call their doctors.
That simple act, multiplied across millions of keyboards in homes around the country, has given rise to a new early-warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks, called Google Flu Trends.
Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org, the company's philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is kind of scary/kind of cool at the same time.
They say: "Google Flu Trends avoids privacy pitfalls by relying only on aggregated data that cannot be traced to individual searchers."
Hopefully they will not pull an AOL :P
This data has been around for, duh, how many years google has been around? So why now?
Why not now, instead of not at all? Just because no Google brainiac developed an application and told his co-workers "Hey, listen to this!" until now doesn't mean it shouldn't be implemented.
Oh wait, it's aggregated data, so you have to get your neighbors in on the fun.
I guess you could post the link on your local Craigslist to be truly evil.
Seriously folks, wash your hands often and if you are sick, don't torture your co-workers by going in anyway and sneezing in their general area.
[edited by: amznVibe at 9:26 am (utc) on Nov. 13, 2008]