Google's New Flu Tracking Tool Raises Concerns About Internet Users' Privacy, Experts Say


In an iHealthBeat Special Report by Deirdre Kennedy, patient privacy advocates express concerns about Google's new online flu tracking tool.

The tool, called Flu Trends, tracks search terms entered by Internet users to help U.S. public health officials identify more quickly potential regional outbreaks. Google says it has found a close relationship between the number of people who search for flu-related topics online and how many people actually have the flu. 

However, privacy advocates argue that Internet user information stored by Google and other search engines could prejudice insurers, employers, lenders or others who might gain access to it.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center;
  • Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights; and
  • Lisa Winston, chief epidemiologist at the University of California-San Francisco (Kennedy, iHealthBeat, 11/19).
Jennifer Berke
I don't understand why privacy is an issue if Google saves these searches without users' personal information.

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