Hours after two blasts went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Google updated its Person Finder tool to help those searching for friends and family members who may have been at the scene. Google's nonprofit arm Google.org launched the tool after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. (The American Red Cross has a similar tool on its site.)
Below is a walk-through of how the tool works for anyone who is looking for a missing person or seeking a way to post information about themselves or someone they have found. Given the delicate nature of the situation, we’ve used Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley as an example. Crowley ran in today’s marathon and confirmed on Twitter that he is safe.
Initially users can click to search for someone or submit information:
After clicking to find someone, users can input the full or partial name of the person they're seeking. They'll then navigate to a results page with potential matches. If they don’t find who they’re looking for, they can create a record for a missing person that others would be able to update:
Matched entries show whatever information can be gleaned about the person, including their name, gender, age, address and a description, and provide a link to subscribe to any updates made to the profile:
People can append information to these profiles—such as the pasted text from Crowley’s tweets and his assumed location—and specify whether they are seeking information about the profiled individual, have information that the person is alive, have reason to think the person is missing or are the individual themselves. Since it’s too easy to relay bad information in the aftermath of a crisis—and Google makes clear that it does not verify the crowdsourced missing-person registry—Google requires that those submitting information include a message for the missing individual or people seeking him or her and indicate if they have talked to the individual after the disaster and their name: