Facebook health survey helps Carnegie Mellon track COVID-19 cases

Brittany A. Roston - Apr 6, 2020, 5:50 pm CDT
Facebook health survey helps Carnegie Mellon track COVID-19 cases

Facebook says that it is working with Carnegie Mellon University’s Delphi Research Center to help track and forecast the potential spread of the infectious disease COVID-19. The effort comes in the form of a survey that some Facebook users will be given the opportunity to take; it’ll ask questions related to symptoms and more, which will be used to generate heat maps based on the data.

A lack of adequate testing in the United States has resulted in an incomplete picture of the current coronavirus outbreaks around the nation. This is unlikely to change any time soon, so some organizations and institutions are turning to self-reported data to get an idea of how communities are being impacted. The latest among them is this survey from Carnegie Mellon.

Facebook users will start seeing a notice at the top of their News Feeds that gives them the opportunity to answer the questions. The data is kept private, according to the university and Facebook; the researchers will only get a random ID number for the survey, not the Facebook user’s actual identity. The survey itself does not take place on Facebook’s platform.

The survey is intended to track the potential spread of coronavirus through communities where actual testing isn’t happening in adequate numbers. The responses will be used to create heat maps based on self-reported symptoms that may indicate the user had or currently has COVID-19, though that can’t be confirmed without a test.

This information may prove useful for scientists and officials, helping them determine where there may be outbreaks of the coronavirus for testing purposes. Communities may be able to better focus on the areas that need resources even if testing isn’t available in sufficient enough numbers; it may also help show, over time, which communities can start reopening their stores.

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