Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Google's "Wiping data 'hits flu prediction'" excuse

According to this BBC article Google is claiming that if they are forced to delete user data after 6 months as the EU desires then they will not be able to predict pandemics.

I don't know about you, but that is the single lamest justification for keeping data / infringing privacy I have ever heard. They could easily have said that the data enables them to offer improved services and had a degree of credibility.

Instead they've spun a tall tale which makes me worried. When a company or government tries to cover up its data retention and usage practices then it suggests we wouldn't like what they are doing with our data.

In regard to spotting pandemics, just because people are searching for swine flu or indeed flu symptoms, this does not necessarily mean that people are infected with it. They could have regular flu or simply have heard something on the media and decided to do some research (as I do all the time). Also if Google is going to rely on data older than 6 months to tell people that a pandemic might be near then its probably a little late.

Moreover I am pretty sure health officials around the world can spot and measure pandemics far more accurately than Google could.

I'm not convinced. Are you?

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