Last week, Google's chief economist, Hal Varian, went to Washington DC, to convince Government agencies that they should use Google's "tools" (search queries) to help get a better grasp on "consumer sentiment, corporate health and social interests."
Here's a couple paragraphs from the Washington Post article:
"As a contemporaneous predictor, predicting the present through search queries has been a pretty good predictor of initial (jobless) claims," said Varian, who was visiting Washington this week to make the case that government agencies should use Google tools to better draw current snapshots of consumer sentiment, corporate health and social interests.
There also has been an increase in searches for homes and real estate agents, he said, possibly foreshadowing new strength for the housing market. Google Trends, a tool that aggregates search terms, also showed an early spike in interest in the government's "Cash for Clunkers" auto purchase incentive program this summer. Perhaps the government could have avoided that whole kerfuffle over the program initially running out of cash, Varian said, if officials had been watching search trends.