December 23rd, 2011

Using Google’s Data to Reach Consumers

The New York Times

THE viruses that Google researchers usually focus on are those that strike computers, but in recent years, they have studied those that infect people, too.

Google correlated billions of flu-related Web searches from 2003 to 2008 with actual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data over the same period. In 2009, researchers from Google and the C.D.C. wrote an article summarizing their findings in the journal Nature, and stated that the new predictive model — now called Google Flu Trends and accessible in an interactive format online — could be a boon to public health. “Up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics,” they wrote.

What the researchers probably did not predict was that the Google flu data would end up being the cornerstone of an advertising campaign.

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