You may have heard of the Google Person Finder, an open source web app. It has been designed to enable people to report themselves as safe if they are hit by a natural disaster. Essentially, it enables others to check people are ok. It does not give any information about people’s personal details, it does not require individuals to register their credit card or bank details. It is simply designed to allow people to say they are safe on their profile and for others to find them.
Google was created in 2010, after the Haiti earthquake. It came after a strongly worded complaint that said that with all the online technology available today, it should be easy for a business like Google to set something like this up. Google was of the opinion that the customer review was correct and they called in their engineer to make it so.
A Brief History
Person Finder was based on various other similar systems. The September 11 Survivor Registry, for instance, is one of these systems. Google Person Finder was launched three days after the Haiti earthquake, and the report showed it was instantly available in French, English, and Creole. Some people initially believed it was a scam and looked forward to leaving negative reviews, but it quickly became clear that this was the real deal.
The work was so significant that it earned the People Finder a five star BBB rating. Hence, it was launched during various subsequent disasters as well. Although never used to be able to prove entitlement for monetary damages or other support, the systems is nevertheless hugely popular and seen by many as a true lifesaver.
Deploying Google Person Finder
The system continues to be available in various languages through the Google Crisis Response page. It also includes a range of other tools to be used in disasters, like shelter locations, satellite photographs, power outages, and road conditions. When the earthquake happened in Japan in 2011, a Picasa account was created to enable others to share photographs and other information to place on the system.
Since the Haiti earthquake, the Google Person Finder has been used numerous times. It is generally live within just a few hours of the disaster occurring. Only once has it been classed as a failure, which was in 2010 after the Pakistan floods. The reason why this was a failure, was because those in the flood-affected areas generally did not have any internet access.
There have been a number of complaints about this type of service. Firstly, people worry that their personal details may be compromised. Secondly, there have been a number of false death reports on the site as well. Overall, however, it is widely agreed that the system is there for the benefit of others and that it gives people hope in times when they are despairing. It is believed, therefore, that the model will continue to exist, not in the least because disasters are likely to continue.