Privacy in the online realm has been an ongoing debate ever since the internet came about. While there is a lot of negativity around this topic, this information is actually helpful in Public Health.
The National Retail Data Monitor (NRDM) keeps tabs on over the counter medications across the U.S. Analyzing this data, health officials are able to see spikes in illnesses before emergency rooms see a spike in admissions due to the illness. Being aware of such data, could help prepare first- responders for the disease outbreak. A study examined pediatric patients at a Pittsburgh hospital and found that over 40 percent of parents had bought over-the-counter meds an average 1.88 days before bringing their children into the ER.
Google Flu Trends is a good example of this. Before going to see a physician, emergency room, or a clinic, many flu suffers search online for symptoms and remedies. Google engineers created a real-time flu tracker called Google Flu Trends. Google can bridge the CDC’s two week lag and can buy officials critical time to devise a public health response and restrict the virus’s spread.
This notion of information and privacy shows that not all data collection is invasive and could be used for the good of the public.