Facebook is to begin asking selected UK users whether they have had symptoms of Covid-19, later on Wednesday.
It is part of a joint effort with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to track the spread of the disease.
Facebook said it would not have access to users’ health data but would simply pass it on to CMU.
One expert said data from the surveys would be useful to scientists but probably not, on its own, reveal much about the disease.
Facebook launched the surveys within the US, on 6 April, attracting a few million responses per week.
Users are asked questions on their health and whether or not they have experienced any common symptoms of Covid-19, like a persistent cough or a fever.
And CMU analysts intend “within a couple of weeks” to use data from the surveys and other sources to forecast what percentage Covid-19 hospital and medical care admissions are likely in specific areas.
Facebook has already published a symbol map showing its estimated proportion of individuals with Covid-19 in areas across the US.
Mauricio Santillana, at Harvard University , said the project was “very useful”.“The Covid-19 outbreak is presenting us with big challenges in terms of estimating prevalence within the population,” he told BBC News.
“The more data sources that we gain access to… the higher .”
But trusting one data source wouldn’t be wise and therefore the Facebook survey data should be treated as “complementary” to other information.
Dr Santillana also warned apps and surveys that askes people about their health wouldn’t necessarily be ready to sustain a broad response from the general public .
“We’ve seen that in apps that ask you each week how you’re feeling – usually at the start tons of individuals become involved enthusiastically then as time evolves less and fewer people participate,” he said.
And the longer the pandemic continued, the more likely “app fatigue” might become.
Source: BBC NEWS