Facebook tool will track coronavirus symptoms across the UK

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The opt-in CMU survey asks Facebook users if they were experiencing coughing, fever, shortness or breath or loss of smell-symptoms that can show up in COVID-19 patients in more mild forms and that likely would be present prior to an individual seeking treatment and thus being tracked by healthcare systems.

Facebook first launched the survey in the USA at the beginning of April and pledged to make it available worldwide if initial results proved helpful.

Data from Facebook users is not shared with the social network, but is fed into a project run by Carnegie Mellon University in the US.

"I'm very happy with both the Facebook and Google survey results". It doesn't provide CMU with who took the survey, it said.

CMU launched its COVIDcast site, featuring estimates of coronavirus activity based on those same surveys from Facebook users. Every day, a new sample of Facebook users over 18 years old within the United States are invited to participate in the survey.

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The guidelines are not mandatory but have "gating criteria," basically best practice benchmarks, according to the Washington Post. In the US the confirmed cases of the virus hit 634,975, with deaths totaling at 27,940, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The maps also will include anonymized data provided by other partners, including Quidel Corp. and a national health care provider.

The data Facebook has extracted from its users has already helped make some estimates on how many people were suffering coronavirus-like symptoms in the U.S., down to a county-by-county level. So far, the project has collected almost one million responses each week on Facebook and 600,000 through Google's Opinion Rewards and AdMob apps. Last week, nearly 600,000 users of the Google Opinion Rewards and AdMob apps were answering another CMU survey each day.

Likewise, Google is helping CMU distribute one-question surveys to its users and results also are not shared with Google, said CMU. Surveys like this have been used globally for public health research, the social media site said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that understanding how COVID-19 is spreading is critical for local governments and public health officials as they allocate scarce resources like ventilators and PPE, and eventually to decide when it is safe to start re-opening different places.

To aid in COVID-19 forecasting, Facebook each day invites some of its USA users to voluntarily answer a CMU survey about any COVID-19 symptoms they might be experiencing; the survey is controlled by CMU and individual responses are not shared with Facebook. Only the headline has been changed.

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