While normally it's medical professionals that assess a person for cancer risks, in the future it could involve internet browsing history. Microsoft has conducted research using the search histories of people who surf the web looking for details about pancreatic cancer. By looking at the search data of users, Microsoft staff were able to accurately predict, in 5-15% of cases, which users had pancreatic cancer. Picking that particular disease was deliberate on the part of Microsoft. Pancreatic cancer normally does not become evident until much later in the disease process. Catching it early is key, so Microsoft hopes their search analyses might identify patients sooner rather than later.
What about privacy concerns though? Could this kind of data collection and prediction backfire? If Microsoft believes a user may have cancer, would they share that information, and how would that work? It's being called a "Cortana for Health" because it's much the same way the Cortana software works to learn about it's users and predict their needs, however with something as serious as a cancer diagnosis, the stakes are much higher