I’ll admit it, I’m sucker for Google products – Reader, Gmail, Docs, Blogger, Chrome and I know on some level the dangers of that. I have lots of bookmarks in delicious about it. This morning while I was watching the news I heard mention of something new – Google Flu Trends. According the the site:
We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.
I’m not certain why this disturbs me, I think I want to know how Google knows where I am when I search. If I go into a computer in my library and do a Goolge search for Flu how do they know I’m in Jefferson City? How? I looked in the FAQ and How Does This Work section and don’t see it. I’m sure someone will leave a comment and let me know. But I’m not sure that will make my unease go away. Think of everything else they *could* track.