By Wand Agency
BY STUART DOWNING
In the chaos following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan -- a computer application is helping people find missing relatives and friends. It’s called Google’s Person Finder App -- the latest technology to turn to when phone services are down.
The tool lets those searching for people in disaster zones post their names and pictures. Anyone with answers can then respond to those posts.
While it’s unclear exactly how many people have been found using the app, the New York Daily News writes...
“The tool appears to be working. A post searching for a person named Markus Laiho posted Friday received a good-news response less than an hour later from another user who had spoken to Laiho on the phone.”
Google’s open-source app uses a data model designed specifically for finding people after disasters. Similar missing person web-apps began popping up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. But, as an MIT researcher explains in a New York Times blog post, it has created some unintended consequences.
“This excellent idea [was] undermined by its success: within 24 hours, it became clear that there were too many places where people were putting information…People within the IT community recognized the danger of too many unconnected sites, and Google became interested in helping.“
Google’s Person Finder was also used after New Zealand’s Christchurch Earthquake and 2010’s Pakistani floods.News agencies, Non-Governmental-Organization’s, and ordinary people all have access to the database. But can you trust a database that’s open to everyone? A writer at Sync-blog.com reminds us...
“The tool is only as good as the data people submit – in other words, Google has no direct control over the quantity or quality of the information. They are merely providing the tool for people to use as they see fit.”
Ultimately -- not everyone will use the resource -- for it’s intended good. The New York Daily News reports...
“A few pranksters may be abusing the People Finder tool. Status updates for characters such as "Michael Jackson" appeared from a user named “Jackson Five", and some messages reporting people as dead have been marked as spam. It appears false reports are quickly being removed from the site.“
On Friday afternoon, Google reported tracking about 7200 missing person records in Japan.
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