Phlegm. Temperature. Sneezing. Apparently sick people are predictable. Before consulting a physician or shopping for DayQuil, we Google our symptoms – or, at least, we do so consistently enough to provide statistically valuable information.
Google researchers recognized this after comparing search query data to confirmed influenza data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and released Google Flu Trends in 2008 to much acclaim – and some alarm. The tool allows Regular Joes to view global flu trends, as illustrated by the frequency of these searches, geographically, and in near real-time.