Sheryl Sandberg Says Results from New Facebook Coronavirus Symptom Survey 'Are Promising'


Two weeks after Facebook announced its coronavirus symptom survey in partnership with health researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, initial findings are showing that its “results are promising,” Facebook executives shared Monday.

According to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, the survey was created to “help public officials understand how COVID-19 is spreading” and Facebook has been encouraging its users, 18 or older, to participate in the survey through the social networking site.

“Those who choose to participate are asked a few simple questions about whether they’re experiencing common COVID-19 symptoms,” Sandberg explained in an Instagram post.

These results are helpful in making further predictions about the spread of the virus, Sandberg, 50, noted.

For example, the survey can assist in predicting “how many new cases doctors can expect in the days ahead, places with the greatest need for medical equipment and regions where the outbreak is slowing.”

On Monday, Carnegie Mellon shared its initial findings from the survey, in which Ryan Tibshirani, co-leader of Carnegie Mellon’s COVID-19 Response Team, said the results “exceeded my expectations.”

According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who published an op-ed on the survey in The Washington Post, the recent findings “correlate with publicly available data on confirmed cases, which suggests this data can help predict where the disease will spread.”

Carnegie Mellon reported that they are receiving approximately one million responses a week from Facebook users in the United States.

These results are able to provide “real-time indications of COVID-19 activity not previously available from any other source,” the school explained a release.

“We want to do everything we can to flatten the curve – and one of the ways to do that is through the power of data,” Sandberg said, going on to note the importance of Facebook users’ privacy while conducting their research.

“A lot of good can happen when we connect our community of billions to useful data. But, it’s also important to us to protect people’s privacy and security,” she said. “We care deeply about getting this right, and we’ll continue to be open about how our platforms can help respond to COVID-19.”

Facebook will not be able to collect or store individual survey responses and CMU will not have access to who took the survey.

As of Tuesday morning, there have been more than 780,500 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and at least 37, 808 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

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