Feds Look to Mine Social Media for Outbreak Info.

Facebook may become a tool in containing the next disease outbreak under a pilot program to mine social networks for real-time public health data.

Accenture Federal Services, Arlington, Va., a wholly owned subsidiary of Accenture LLP, was awarded a one-year, $3 million contract by the U.S. Homeland Security Department to help boost the biosurveillence capabilities of the Office of Health Affairs, according to a news release. The office is responsible for providing health and medical expertise to prepare for, respond to and recover from any hazard impacting the nation’s health security, including biological threats.

The company will develop a social-media analytics pilot to manage, link and analyze data from social-media networks in real time to provide national health emergency information in the case of infectious-disease outbreaks or a biological attack. The project also aims to improve the office’s data-sharing and collaboration capabilities with other federal offices.

Such information is freely available on a variety of social-network platforms, but the quantity of it has created challenges in collecting, analyzing and sharing it, according to the company.

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