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Google survey asks about coronavirus symptoms to create public data set with Carnegie Mellon

Big data provides a wellspring of insight, and there are already examples of that amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech companies have signaled a willingness to aid relief efforts by providing such information to researchers. One such survey effort might be underway with Google Opinion Rewards today asking people if they have symptoms related to the coronavirus.

The Google Opinion Rewards app prompts users with short surveys that offer Play Store credit (Android) or PayPal balance (iOS) upon completion. Over the course of today, a few people have been asked whether they or anyone in their household have coronavirus-related symptoms:

Do you or anyone in your household have a fever of at least 100 degrees along with a sore throat or a cough?

The three options are “yes,” “no,” or “prefer not to answer.” Before seeing the question, participants are informed that the answer will be explicitly used for aggregate research, and “will not be retained or associated with any identifying information about you.” It’s specifically being used to create a public data set.

Responses to this survey will be aggregated and anonymized to form a public data set.

It’s not uncommon for multiple people to receive the same survey — usually asking about a product feature, recent Assistant command, or online interest. According to the Play Store, the Android app has seen over 10 million downloads.

However, this Google coronavirus survey appears to be rather widespread  Two members of our US team were prompted, while there are several dozen online reports on Twitter and Reddit this afternoon.

Update: This survey is the result of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. The school, which works with the CDC on flu tracking, reached out to the company about COVID-19 forecasting. The survey effort began over the weekend and also appears through the Google Surveys Publisher Network of websites and third-party apps.

“At the request of Carnegie Mellon University researchers working to help forecast the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., we recently began running a Google Survey questionnaire asking people if they have flu-like symptoms. People have to opt in to take the survey and the information the researchers will receive is aggregated and completely anonymized.”

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: