Facebook’s New ‘Safety Check’ Connects Loved Ones in Times of Need

Facebook has decided to put their location tracking services to good use. In light of past disasters, both natural (the recent San Francisco earthquake) and human induced (such as the Ferguson riots), the company has realized they can be a way to keep friends and family connected when networks clog from over use.

The new iOs & Android feature “Safety Check,” for phones and desktops uses information that has been listed, such as current city and the location of the last check-in, to determine the user’s proximity to an emergency. The network will then send a push notifications asking if the user is ok, to which the user can tap “I’m safe,” or “I’m not in the area.” The app will in turn generate a status to post to the user’s network’s newsfeeds. Announced Thursday, Mark Zuckerburg stated,

It’s meaningful to be in Tokyo to announce this because the great earthquake and tsunami a few years ago inspired us to build the first version of this for Japan… Now we’re glad to have this ready to serve everyone in the world.”

Other social media sites have also embraced their ability to connect people in order to provide support during emergencies. Last year, Twitter initiated an alert system which gave users the option to receive push notifications from law enforcement agencies and emergency alert systems. However, the flaw with this system remained that it simply brought information about disasters to the user, rather than allowing the user to connect to friends and families.

The benefit of this system is the automation- Facebook uses information it already has to allow the user to efficiently connect with friends and family at the press of a button. While the app may potentially spare many of angst, questions of user privacy remains at the forefront of this app.

Facebook has become notorious as of recent of manipulating user’s information, both for targeted advertising as well as a recent social experiment promoted by the network. Online data experts often advise users to keep location settings turned off,  both on mobile apps and desktop features, in order to preserve privacy. The use of this app is indicative of Rosseau’s Social Contract theory, in which the individual must navigate his or her own rights with the authority of the state. The theory is most often considered to suggest the individual must give up certain independence in order to receive desired protections of the government. Would you choose to reduce the security of your data in exchange for the opportunity to reach your loved ones in a time of need?


Read more here- “Facebook Safety Check is  a Super Simple Way to Tell the World You’re OK,” (Caitlin McGarry, PC World)


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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.



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