Accenture, Inc., will receive approximately $3 million (US) in federal funding to assist the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Health Affairs to bolster biosurveillance on social networks by improving the ability to track health trends, as well as potential epidemics and pandemics. This will be done by monitoring social media accounts and other online activity.
According to Accenture, the will be working in tandem with the Office of Heath Affairs in the testing of a pilot program that was designed to manage, line and analyze data that will be submitted about diseases and possible biological attacks. This data will be mined via social networking feeds.
Joanne Veto, the Director of Media and Analyst Relations for Accenture, released a statement that said, in part,
“Biosurveillance is the monitoring of public health trends and unusual occurrences, relying on pre-existing, real-time health data – data that is publicly available and easily obtained. Because of the vast amount of data and information available and readily shared through social media and the rapid pace information is shared, collecting and understanding information from these channels is critical.”
NextGov reports that John Matchette, Managing Director for US biological and health-related events, stated,
“In theory, social media analytics would have shown timely indicators for multiple past biological and health-related events. Social media platforms are now an everyday part of peoples’ lives, finding their way into all forms of communication. Rapidly collecting and understanding what information is being shared will help OHA meet its mission to detect and respond to potential threats to national health security."
Accenture has a history working with the Department of Homeland Security, having been given a contract in 2004 that has been valued at approximately $10 million (US).
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a suit last year against the Department of Homeland Security in Federal court, charging them with failure to fully explain their role in monitoring social networks.