Finding People In the Nepal Earthquake Zone

Google, Facebook, activate people finder tools

1 min read
Finding People In the Nepal Earthquake Zone
Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

Is my friend/relative/colleague OK? After a disaster like Saturday’s Nepal earthquake, that’s a question people around the world with any kind of connection to the disaster zone have been asking.

Both Google and Facebook have in recent years developed tools intended to make that question easier to answer, and both companies quickly turned their tools on in the wake of the Nepal quake.

imgImage: Google

Google activated its “Person Finder” missing persons tracker. A concerned friend or relative types in the name of the person they are looking for into a search box or texts "search" to 6040 in Nepal, 91-9773300000 in India, or 1 650-800-3978 in the United States. On the other end, people can submit information about someone in the earthquake zone—including a description and whether or not the person is known to be safe. At this writing, Google had 5900 records active.

imgImage: Facebook

Facebook is asking users to let their friends know that they are safe via “Safety Check,” launched last year. When the company turns this tool on, Facebook’s servers determine which users are in the disaster area, considering their listed home city, last location identified by the company’s “Nearby Friends” technology if they use that app, or the identity of the city in which users last used the Internet to access Facebook. The system then pushes a request to them asking them to click on a button to indicate that they are OK. People outside the disaster area can use Safety Check to find out which friends are in the area and whether or not they have checked in as safe.

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How the FCC Settles Radio-Spectrum Turf Wars

Remember the 5G-airport controversy? Here’s how such disputes play out

11 min read
This photo shows a man in the basket of a cherry picker working on an antenna as an airliner passes overhead.

The airline and cellular-phone industries have been at loggerheads over the possibility that 5G transmissions from antennas such as this one, located at Los Angeles International Airport, could interfere with the radar altimeters used in aircraft.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve no doubt seen the scary headlines: Will 5G Cause Planes to Crash? They appeared late last year, after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that new 5G services from AT&T and Verizon might interfere with the radar altimeters that airplane pilots rely on to land safely. Not true, said AT&T and Verizon, with the backing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which had authorized 5G. The altimeters are safe, they maintained. Air travelers didn’t know what to believe.

Another recent FCC decision had also created a controversy about public safety: okaying Wi-Fi devices in a 6-gigahertz frequency band long used by point-to-point microwave systems to carry safety-critical data. The microwave operators predicted that the Wi-Fi devices would disrupt their systems; the Wi-Fi interests insisted they would not. (As an attorney, I represented a microwave-industry group in the ensuing legal dispute.)

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