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News Link • Homeland Security

Homeland Security to Test Social Media as Disease-Tracking Tool

•, Staff
The project will search for disease-related warning signs by using publicly available data found through Facebook, Twitter and blogs, according to news site NextGov. Accenture, a global consulting firm, won a $3 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to set up a pilot program that will try to predict possible public health crises.

"Rapidly collecting and understanding what information is being shared will help OHA [Office of Health Affairs] meet its mission to detect and respond to potential threats to national health security,” said John Matchette, head of Accenture's Public Safety agency work.

Such a plan could theoretically provide better surveillance of incidents such as the 2001 anthrax letters, the 2003 SARS outbreak or the 2009 bird flu pandemic. But NextGov points out that Homeland Security's online monitoring efforts have also sparked concern from some members of Congress and the public about whether they violate free speech and privacy rights. 

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