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Facebook’s Safety Check: Activated by People or Technology?

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During my lunch break today I received a notification about a friend that had been marked as safe following the 8.3 magnitude earthquake in Chile. At first I was a bit confused, as I had never seen such a notification before. Maybe I’ve missed it, as the feature apparently rolled out earlier and was already in use in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake in April.

This Safety Check feature of Facebook kept me thinking for a bit. Actually, I am still not quite sure how it works. Apparently, the Social Media platform from Menlo Park, CA, will ask people in the area if they were affected and are safe. Also, it seems friends of that person can also ask and mark somebody safe.

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Friends, Technology, & the Safety Check

I think this is an extremely useful feature, as the use case is actually beneficial and does not simply create another boring story in the shiny pink (or blue) world of Facebook. Nevertheless, I am still confused about the technology or functionality of Facebook’s Safety Check.

Does it only ask people who actually stated where they are located or living at? Or does it take advantage of the technology? This means that Facebook would access GPS location data and other data sources, putting the permissions the Facebook app has to good use.

I would love to get some insights on that, especially considering the possible advantages of combining such features with the smartphones sensory devices like the gyroscope or accelerometer. I am well aware that this would cause privacy and security concerns, but given the fact that the blue giant already has a lot of data, the question is: Are they putting it to use or “just” let the Facebook friends decide?

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