#Data Watch- Is Google's flu data no longer a reliable source?

By 10th April 2014Uncategorized

Big Data was a prevalent topic at this years #AWEurope. The use of big data can be hugely successful when monitored and executed accurately. However there is a danger of big data hubris when it’s used incorrectly, as Google Flu Trends (GFT) has recently experienced. There was a reliance on GFT, with the systems ability to predict outbreaks using real-time information. ‘Go online in real-time Google Flu data can pinpoint outbreaks around one or two weeks ahead of traditional surveillance methods’ (The Guardian). This is no longer the case and scientists have found a number of flawed algorithms.

The reason for the recent errors in GFT is straightforward. Flu was prevalent in the news, which caused more searches by the public and an increase in predictions of flu outbreaks. However many of the searches were made from those curious about the symptoms rather than sickly individuals.

In summary it is clear than even incredibly successful companies, like Google, are at risk of big data hubris if their data is not carefully monitored. John Allert Group Brand Director of McLaren described big data as “a dangerous sea” at #AWEurope and “to try to make sense of it can be like trying to boil the ocean.”

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