Spying on your Google searches 'reveals coronavirus hotspots' around the world, scientists discover

GOOGLE searching for your symptoms could be used to create a useful public health tool, according to researchers.

Scientists from Harvard and University College London found that spikes in searches for Covid-19 symptoms coincided with outbreak hotspots.

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The research, which was revealed in a New York Times article, also found that searched terms on Google could highlight symptoms that have been undetected.

The team looked at search trends on Google and the locations of the trends.

They then compared them to coronavirus outbreaks and found a correlation.

Privacy of individual users was not compromised.

The researchers found that searches for "I can't smell" tended to be higher in areas which had higher numbers of coronavirus cases.

A lack of smell and taste was initially overlooked as one of the more common symptoms of coronavirus but now a lot more people are reporting to have it.

The scientists found that people in Ecuador were making more searches relating to the loss of smell than anywhere else in the world, despite reporting fewer Covid-19 cases than a lot of other countries.

They also found searches for "burning eyes" increased in Italy in March.

Doctors previously tried to use Google data to track swine flu.

However, this didn't go to plan as a lot of people googled symptoms out of fear rather than because they were ill themselves.

We don't yet know if Google Search would be used to help tackle the coronavirus.

If it was it's possible that governments could use the data to plan for outbreaks in certain areas and track the virus.

We have reached out to Google for comment.

How to view what Google knows about you

You can take the following steps…

  • First, you'll need to be signed into your Gmail or Google account
  • Once you've done that, type "history.google.com/history" into your web browser
  • You'll be taken to a hub which contains your entire digital footprint, so be careful, it could make for some grim reading
  • This includes Maps searches and YouTube videos you've watched

In other news, Facebook has launched a coronavirus symptom tracker to uncover COVID-19 hotspots.

WhatsApp has limited forwarding of ‘chain messages’ to just one chat in fight against fake news.

And, social media has been inundated with bots trying to spread fake coronavirus news.

Do you worry about your privacy? Let us know in the comments…

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