These days, when people start feeling a fever and a sore throat coming on, often times their first move isn’t to the medicine cabinet. Instead, it’s to a computer or smartphone to Google their symptoms, News@Northeastern reports.
These queries, which make up only a tiny fraction of the more than 7 billion total queries the search engine handles each day, are all stored by Google. The company uses this data for a variety of reasons; it can help Google improve its search results for users—which also boosts the company’s bottom line—and can also benefit the population as a whole in other ways.
One example of the latter is Google Flu Trends, a statistical model developed by engineers at Google.org—the company’s foundational arm—in an effort to “now-cast” what’s happening with the flu on any given day.
But research has shown that GFT often misses its target.