These days, technology is ubiquitous. If you're not carrying a smartphone throughout your daily routine, you're certainly in the minority. While some consider this technology uncomfortably invasive, it also offers many benefits for survivalists. A smartphone is a wireless communications device, map, camera, flashlight, and encyclopedia all rolled into one — even if the cellular grid goes down, many of these tools can still be used, as long as you have solar panels or a sustainable power source.

Facebook disaster maps emergency social media rescue 2

The new Facebook Disaster Maps tool aggregates users into 360-square-meter regions.

The ubiquity and constant connectivity of smartphones is increasingly being leveraged as a disaster relief tool. Recently, Facebook announced the development of a new tool called Facebook Disaster Maps. This service is intended to help the social networking giant share “information about where populations are located, how they are moving, and where they are checking in safe during a natural disaster” with response agencies and humanitarian organizations.

Three types of maps will be generated by the software:

  • Density – Also known as Z-score, this represents the number of individuals with the Facebook app in each local region, compared to a baseline measurement before a disaster occurs. Abnormally high or low population density scores could indicate dangerous conditions in a certain area.
  • Movement – This shows the number of people moving between regions over a given time period, compared to a baseline measurement. The movement map could show a mass exodus from a certain area or into another area, indicating that authorities should focus their relief efforts there.
  • Safety Check – This tracks the locations where users are marking themselves as “safe” using the company's existing Safety Check tool.

Facebook Disaster Maps is an internal service which will be activated during major regional disasters, much like the company's Safety Check system. According to Engadget, Facebook only intends to share this data with certain entities. Currently, UNICEF, the Red Cross and the World Food Programme will be the only organizations with access to Facebook Disaster Maps, but “the company does saw that in time, they intend to share the data with other organizations and even relevant governments.” That may raise a privacy red flag with some users, but Facebook has stressed that the data will be “aggregated and de-identified”.

So, what's your opinion on this new Facebook map tool? Do you think it's a great resource for rescue workers, an invasive breach of privacy, or something in between? Let us know in the poll below.


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