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Google launches new app to let Android users participate in health research

Google is pushing for public health research through a new app. The search giant announced today the launch of the Google Health Studies app, designed to let Android users contribute data to health studies.

The app is available to download today via the Play Store and the first research will focus on respiratory illness. Google has teamed up with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital to conduct the study with the goal of gaining more insights into respiratory illnesses including influenza and COVID-19.

Participants can use the app to answer survey questions and submit relevant data such as the symptoms they're experiencing, preventative steps they’ve taken, and test results pertaining to COVID-19 or influenza. The app is also built with privacy and user control in mind. Google says the data collected is encrypted and stored on their device. The app uses federated learning and analytics system to securely store user data on their phones while allowing researchers to gather aggregated and anonymized data from multiple devices.

Participants can also view what data they're contributing and choose which information they can share with the research. In addition, study data won't be used for purposes beyond what the participants have agreed to in the research. Research findings will also be available to the volunteers.

With the new app, Google says it's helping researchers tap into a "diverse population so they can better understand human health, while providing the public with greater opportunities to contribute to medical research." In essence, the new app is meant to address researchers' difficulty with collecting enough data from volunteers to produce studies that represent the general population.

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