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Google flu trends

“Big Data” is one of the hype words being thrown out in the business world. Companies, such as Google, are trying to use all this data they are gathering to predict the future. One way Google is doing this is by using a Google data-aggregating tool called Google Flu Trends (GTF). This tool is used to provide real-time monitoring of flu cases around the world. They do this by calculating the relationship between people searching the flu and having the flu.

“GFT overestimated the prevalence of flu in the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 seasons by more than 50%. From August 2011 to September 2013, GFT over-predicted the prevalence of the flu in 100 out 108 weeks. During the peak flu season last winter, GFT would have had us believe that 11% of the U.S. had influenza, nearly double the CDC numbers of 6%. If you wanted to project current flu prevalence, you would have done much better basing your models off of 3-week-old data on cases from the CDC than you would have been using GFT’s sophisticated big data methods.

“GFT and other big data methods can be useful, but only if they’re paired with what the Science researchers call “small data”—traditional forms of information collection. Put the two together, and you can get an excellent model of the world as it actually is”

Source: Time

Date: March 13th, 2014


Questions for discussion:

  • If you have the flu, do you research it online? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that companies will be willing to release all of the information they have collected? Why or why not?

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