One of the throwaway remarks I sometimes make at conferences is that “Google knows you’re pregnant before you do”.
I can say this because the things you search for will change as your life changes, and search engine providers may well be able to spot the significance of these changes because they aggregate data from millions of people.
Now Google’s philanthropic arm, google.org, has shown just what it can do with the data it gathers from us all by offering to predict where ‘flu outbreaks will take place in the USA.
It has found that “certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity”, in that they correlate well with reports from the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I’m in the bar at FACT in Liverpool having just had an excellent time debating privacy with Jeffrey Rosen, Jonathan Sawday and Sonia Livingstone, expertly chaired by Philip Dodd. It’s part of Radio 3’s Free Thinking festival and will be broadcast on Monday’s Night Waves on Radio 3.
FACT is a fabulous building, and there’s a real buzz in the atmosphere. And since there’s free wifi I’ve been Qiking:
I was pleased to be asked to speak at the launch of Demos’ new report on personal information on Friday. The report’s authors, Peter Bradwell and Niamh Gallagher, gave a solid introduction to the issues and then Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, comedian Natalie Haynes and I got to respond. You can download the report from the Demos website, and it’s well worth reading the whole thing.
These are the notes I spoke from, slightly tidied up.