Facebook coronavirus symptom checker: 1M responses/week, publishes first data

A Facebook coronavirus symptom checker run in partnership with health researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has just published its first maps, showing the highest levels of suspected infections.

The survey has been collecting one million responses per week, and Carnegie Mellon is building an API which will allow other researchers access the data …

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Writing in the Washington Post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that the social network is uniquely placed to provide the large-scale data needed to enable researchers to predict likely need for hospital care.

Getting accurate county-by-county data from across the United States is challenging, and obtaining such focused data from across the whole world is even harder. But with a community of billions of people globally, Facebook can uniquely help researchers and health authorities get the information they need to respond to the outbreak and start planning for the recovery.

We recently started showing the Facebook community in the United States an opt-in symptom survey run by health researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The survey asked people if they have symptoms such as fevers, coughing, shortness of breath or loss of smell that are associated with covid-19. Since experiencing symptoms is a precursor to becoming more seriously ill, this survey can help forecast how many cases hospitals will see in the days ahead and provide an early indicator of where the outbreak is growing and where the curve is being successfully flattened. The survey responses are sent to the researchers and aren’t accessible to Facebook.

Zuckerberg says early indications suggest that the data correlates well to confirmed cases.

They correlate with publicly available data on confirmed cases, which suggests this data can help predict where the disease will spread. They can also be used to build detailed county-by-county insights. The results indicate, for example, that in some New York City suburbs, an estimated 2 to 3 percent of people are experiencing covid-19-like symptoms.

Roni Rosenfeld, head of the university’s machine-learning department, says that data provided by Facebook, Google and others is ‘priceless.’

“We’re deeply appreciative of the help we are receiving from Facebook, Google and our other partners,” Rosenfeld said. “The data they provide is priceless and will give us greater confidence once we are able to begin our forecasts for this deadly disease.”

More information about the Facebook coronavirus symptom checker can be found here. Facebook users will be periodically prompted to take part in the survey, usually at the top of their feeds.

It follows a COVID-19 dashboard created by Instagram’s founders, showing how quickly the virus is spreading in each state.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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