Facebook to roll out coronavirus symptom-tracking survey to UK

Facebook is rolling out a coronavirus symptom-tracker survey globally which will appear at the top of users’ News Feeds on the social network.

The optional survey is run by the Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Centre, designed to provide scientists with new insights on how to respond to the crisis, including heat maps of self-reported symptoms.

Responses are sent to the researchers and are not accessible by Facebook, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said, in a bid to allay any privacy concerns.

“Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again,” he said in an op-ed.

“Since experiencing symptoms is a precursor to becoming more seriously ill, this survey can help forecast how many cases hospitals will see in the days ahead and provide an early indicator of where the outbreak is growing and where the curve is being successfully flattened.”

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

There, it is receiving approximately one million responses a week, Mr Zuckerberg said, providing the team with real-time estimates of disease activity at the county level for much of the US.

Carnegie Mellon is also building an application programming interface (API) to allow researchers everywhere access to the results for analysis.

“The world has faced pandemics before, but this time we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good,” the Facebook boss continued.

“If we use it responsibly, I’m optimistic that data can help the world respond to this health crisis and get us started on the road to recovery.”