Google’s ‘Person Finder’ crucial tool in terror’s aftermath


As the country looked in horror after bombs were detonated during the Boston Marathon on Monday leaving at least three dead and more than 140 victims injured at time of print,
the search engine giant Google was readying its considerable Internet presence to help.

Google’s humanitarian wing,, dedicated a section of its “Person Finder” application solely to help with response efforts at the Boston Marathon by making information easily available among surrounding chaos and confusion.

In the hours after the attack, the media covered and reported every bit of information about the attack, the aftermath, the response and the following investigation. But, out of respect for families still in the process of seeking information, the victims and the thousands of witnesses’ names were left out. While this is the ethical course for the media to take, what this means is that victims and survivors are left with no way to contact their loved ones.

Though a system that searches and identifies a person’s whereabouts can be used for nefarious purposes, Google created “Person Finder” with that very precaution in mind. The service is only available when there is a direct disaster to link the inquiries to and all of the searches have an expiration time. Individuals with confirmation that others are alive are able to post information as well.

Because cell phone towers became inundated with thousands of calls, social media and the Internet became the best communication recourse during disasters. Google has taken the initiative to use its immense Internet presence to help the relief effort as hundreds of entries had already been entered into the service within an hour after the attack. The information was then disseminated to law enforcement and first responders as the relief effort continued.

It is not often that powerful companies like Google make such a humanitarian and essential contribution to society outside of charitable donations. But Google showed that power and affluence do not curtail compassion. It is uplifting to know that Google has used its technological prowess to help people in the darkest of times.

When terrorist attacks occur or natural disasters strike, the confusion and panic left in the aftermath sends a ripple effect through the rest of the world. The disconnect between the victims and their loved ones intensifies the turmoil of the situation long after the attack is over. People desperately search for their loved ones as bystanders, witnesses and first responders do so as well.

Google should be commended for creating such a useful service to help those in the worst possible scenario.