Coronavirus: Facebook launches UK Covid-19 symptom survey

Coronavirus: Facebook launches UK Covid-19 symptom survey

The survey asks Facebook users about their health and social distances

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Facebook

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The survey asks Facebook users about their health and social distances

Facebook will start asking selected UK users if they have had Covid-19 symptoms later on Wednesday.

It is part of a joint effort with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to trace the spread of the disease.

Facebook said it would not have access to user health data, but would simply pass it on to the CMU.

An expert said the survey data would be useful to scientists, but they probably don’t reveal much about the disease on their own.

Facebook launched polls in the United States on April 6, attracting around one million responses per week.

Users were asked about their health and whether they experienced common Covid-19 symptoms, such as persistent cough or fever.

And CMU analysts intend “within a few weeks” to use survey data and other sources to predict how many Covid-19 hospital and ICU admissions are likely in specific areas.

Facebook has already published a map of symptoms showing its estimated percentage of people with Covid-19 in areas across the United States.

Fatigue of the app

Mauricio Santillana, of Harvard University, said the project was “very useful”.

“The Covid-19 epidemic presents us with major challenges in terms of estimating population prevalence,” he told BBC News.

“The more data sources we can access … the better.”

But trusting a single data source would not be wise and the Facebook survey data should be considered “complementary” to other information.

Dr. Santillana also warned apps and surveys that ask people about their health would not necessarily be able to support a broad response from the public.

“We’ve seen this in apps asking you every week how you feel, usually many people get involved with enthusiasm at first and then less and less people participate over time,” he said.

And the longer the pandemic continues, the more likely app fatigue could become.

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