Self-reported symptoms from surveys posted on Facebook, Google outlets correlate with confirmed tests, according to Carnegie Mellon

The new data will be available in the university's COVIDcast map, and on Facebook's Data for Good.
By Laura Lovett
11:40 am
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Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that self-reported coronavirus symptoms from surveys posted on Facebook and Google correlate to test-confirmed cases. These results will now be part of the university’s new disease forecast map COVIDcast, which will also include data from others like the Quidel Corp. 

While individual results of the Carnegie Mellon study weren’t shared with Facebook, the social media giant does plan to use the university’s aggregated data on its “Facebook & Carnegie Mellon University COVID-19 Symptom Map.”

At the beginning of April, Facebook offered its users the ability to opt into the Carnegie Mellon survey, run by the Delphi research center, about possible symptoms and ways they are responding to the pandemic. 

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“This is work that social networks are well-situated to do. By distributing surveys to large numbers of people whose identities we know, we can quickly generate enough signal to correct for biases and ensure sampling is done properly,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed about the new results this morning. 

Next up, the social media giant plans to team up with the University of Maryland and continue its work with Carnegie Mellon in order to build an API that lets researchers access the results of those surveys. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

The World Health Organization reports over 2.2 million cases of coronavirus worldwide. However, testing is still dragging. Organizations all over the world are working on ways to track and halt the spread of the disease.

 In late March, Margaret Bourdeaux, research director at Harvard Medical School, discussed the importance of testing and tracing in order to get the virus under control at the MassChallenge coronavirus summit. 

However, as more tech companies, and even nations, roll out tracing efforts, concerns about privacy continue to crop up

THE LARGER TREND

Some of the biggest names in the tech industry are getting involved in tracking and tracing data in attempts to help manage the coronavirus. Two weeks ago, Facebook unrolled three new disease-tracking maps based on aggregated Facebook data. The three new maps are a colocation map, a movement range map and a social-connectedness map.  

On April 10, Google and Apple made waves when the duo formed an unprecedented partnership to introduce health data-sharing and COVID-19 contact-tracing technologies to the bulk of the smartphone market. 

The pair also announced plans to launch APIs that will enable interoperability between iOS and Android products by way of official apps from public health authorities.

Population health management enters an uncharted new era

This month, we look at how approaches to treating COVID-19 and other illnesses are shifting in this new era.

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