Saturday the 25th of April, a disastrous earthquake hit Nepal. Homes have collapsed, century-old heritage sites have been destroyed, phone communications are still down, but most importantly of all – nearly 2,500 people are reported to have died during the disaster and thousands are still missing. People with relatives living or travelling in the area struck, often have no way of directly contacting them due to the damaged communication infrastructure. In an attempt to provide information and to aid rescue efforts, Google once again enabled its Person Finder.
Google first launched the Person Finder after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and has since opened the Person Finder in response to every other major calamity. The Person Finder is a missing persons database that allows people looking for their relatives and loved ones to search for their names by clicking on “I’m looking for someone”. The database relies on individuals who have information on someone’s status in the areas struck to add a record to the database by clicking on “I have information about someone”. The record contains the name, physical characteristics, and a description of the person as well as information on his or her current status and contact details. In addition to user-added information, the database uses People Finder Interchange Format (PFIF) to aggregate missing persons information from registries of other organizations in an attempt to centralize the information.
Person Finder depends on its users to update and remove records when no longer relevant. Users can also report spam, offensive content, or incorrect information. Records added to the database have a limited expiration date – after a certain number of days (minimum of 30), they are removed from the database unless manually extended by a user. As such, Person Finder is a fully crowd-sourced platform as it relies on user’s input of information.
As of Sunday, a day after the earthquake, the database already contains 4700 records and is still growing.
Person Finder: 2015 Nepal Earthquake (2015) Available at: http://google.org/personfinder/2015-nepal-earthquake