Google Person Finder
Google Person Finder embeddable widget (January 19, 2010)
|Type of site||Humanitarian aid|
|Available language(s)||Multilingual (47)|
|Launched||January 15, 2010|
Google Person Finder is an open source web application that provides a registry and message board for survivors, family, and loved ones affected by a natural disaster to post and search for information about each other's status and whereabouts. It was created by volunteer Google engineers in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Google Person Finder is written in Python and hosted on Google App Engine. Its database and API are based on the People Finder Interchange Format (PFIF) developed in 2005 for the Katrina PeopleFinder Project.
Immediately after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Google product manager Prem Ramaswami asked a supervisor about his company's response, and was encouraged to gather engineers from the company to develop software. Google engineer Ka-Ping Yee led a team of Google volunteers to build a registry of missing persons for Haiti, based on the September 11 survivor registry and on the PFIF data standard, both of which he had previously developed. Google also worked with the United States Department of State to create a gadget version of Google Person Finder, which was embedded on the State Department's website and other websites. Google Person Finder launched in English, French, and Haitian Creole on January 15, less than three days after the earthquake.
As with previous response efforts to the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, many different organizations created sites with lists of missing persons, leading to a concern that information would be scattered across incompatible information silos. Using PFIF, Google Person Finder aggregated the data from many of these sites, including registries run by CNN, the Miami Herald, and the New York Times.
Google's work on the Haiti earthquake led to the formation of the Google Crisis Response team, which has launched Google Person Finder again for several subsequent disasters, in many different languages and with a variety of data exchange partners.
Google Person Finder is typically embedded in a multilingual Crisis Response page on Google's site, which also contains various other disaster tools such as satellite photographs, shelter locations, road conditions, and power outage information. For the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Google also set up a Picasa account to allow people to submit photos of the name lists posted in emergency shelters, to be manually transcribed and entered into Google Person Finder.
Noteworthy deployments of Google Person Finder include:
- July 2010: 2010 Pakistan floods (considered a failure because people in the affected area did not have Internet access)
- October 2013: 2013 Cyclone Phailin
Sites that adopt PFIF may interconnect with each other by exporting and transmitting data or allowing their site to be scraped; sites such as blogs and narrative accounts that are not compatible are reviewed by volunteers who key missing person information in PFIF format. The software widget used for directly entering information has two buttons, "I'm looking for someone" and "I have information about someone", and can be embedded directly onto other web pages.
In 2011 there were several reports of malicious false death reports on the system.
- Andy Carvin (January 17, 2010). "Using Google's Haiti Missing Persons Widget". National Public Radio.
- Goldman, David (March 17, 2011). "Google gives '20%' to Japan crisis". CNN.
- Olivarez-Giles, Nathan (April 5, 2011). "Google's Person Finder helps locate loved ones in Japan". Los Angeles Times.
- Jacquelline Fuller, Prem Ramaswami (January 15, 2010). "Staying connected in post-earthquake Haiti". Google Blog.
- David Pogue (January 17, 2010). "Information on Haiti Is Getting Siloed". New York Times.
- Julie Moos (January 18, 2010). "Google Centralizes Haiti People Finder; News Sites Share Data". Poynter Institute.
- Perez, Juan Carlos (March 17, 2011). "Google Extends Japan Information, Relief Online Tools". PC World.
- Lobello, Carmel (April 15, 2013). "Where to find helpful information about the Boston Marathon explosions". Yahoo! News. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- "Yaan earthquake". South China Morning Post. 21 April 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "2013 Cyclone Phailin". Google Person Finder. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
- "Person Finder: Typhoon Yolanda". Google Person Finder. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
- "Google Person Finder". Google. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
- Prem Ramaswami (April 4, 2011). "Google Crisis Response: a small team tackling big problems". Google Blog.
- Hiroko Tabuchi (July 10, 2011). "Quick Action Helps Google Win Friends in Japan". New York Times.
- Derek Gordon (January 18, 2010). "Haiti on my Mind". MediaPost.
- "'Sick' messages falsely inform worried British families their relatives are dead after Japanese earthquake". Daily Mail. March 14, 2011.