People could soon be warned off bad restaurants by new technology that uses Twitter complaints to generate a map of dodgy establishments.
The system picks up on Twitter messages from disgruntled diners, including the location of the restaurant where they had the poor meal, in order to highlight venues with bad food standards.
The researchers from the University of Rochester in the USA that designed the technology said they hoped that it would have wider uses in the future, reported The Times. These could include the tracking of infectious diseases so that health professionals can prevent their spread.
"People criticise folks for oversharing on Twitter and social media, but there's a benefit," said Vincent Silenzio from the University of Rochester. "Currently, you can only identify a [bad] place after the fact. The promise of this system is that you can identify things almost in real time and provide a better detection system than you have now."
The computer system, Nemesis, is capable of filtering updates made on the social networking site to match up a user's location with a restaurant's address.
It analysed 3.8 million tweets from around 94,000 people in New York City and when this data was compared with information from US government food inspectors, the team found that their map correlated with establishments that had received poor ratings from officials.
While there is an option to turn the concept into an app that could be used by consumers, Silenzio said his team had decided to give their work to health officials instead.
He said that the system could be used anywhere in the world, with some minor adjustments, adding: "We'd have to tweak it for Britain, because people don't talk in quite the same way."