Google Flu Trends

With STDs On The Rise, Google Wants To Help Researchers Track Outbreaks

Dec 16, 2015
Amy Johnson, a PhD candidate in public health at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is working on a model to use Google searches to track the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in real time.
Mary Chris Jaklevic / KHN

With sexually transmitted diseases on the rise, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago think they might have a powerful new weapon to fight their spread: Google searches.

The nation’s leading search engine has quietly begun giving researchers access to its data troves to develop analytical models for tracking infectious diseases in real time or close to it. UIC is one of at least four academic institutions that have received access so far, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What if you could track people getting sick just by analyzing how they surf the Web?