Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hints at user-activated Facebook Safety Check

At a recent townhall at Luis University in Rome, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook Safety Check feature could soon be activated by users.


At a recent townhall at Luis University in Rome, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook Safety Check feature could soon be activated by users.

According to a report in Venture Beat, during the townhall, an audience member asked a question related to the Safety Check feature. Asked whether users would be able to activate the Safety Check feature, Zuckerberg said, ‘Yes, we’re working on that already.’

After the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Facebook initiated the first major deployment of Safety Check that enabled users to mark themselves safe during natural calamities or disasters. Subsequently, the Paris attacks, Brussels airport bombing, Nice attacks and Munich shooting have witnessed activations of this feature by Facebook.

The Facebook Safety Check feature is currently activated by Facebook itself, with users not having control over the activation process. Depending on the gravity of a disaster or calamity, the Facebook team activates the feature for users in the geographical vicinity of the affected area. Users who are located around the affected area could then mark themselves 'safe' so that friends and loved ones who haven't been able to contact them could be assured of their safety and well being.

According to the Facebook, users already use Facebook to tell people they are OK after earthquakes and other disasters. But, Facebook says the Safety Check tool makes it easier for them to assure their loved ones of their safety. It grew out of a disaster message board that Facebook engineers created in 2011 following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

On the other hand, Google also does its part of helping out. During the Chennai floods, the search giant quickly compiled a Crisis Response page, tagged as ‘South India Flooding’, that brought all the information needed both for those who need help and those who want to help out; on a single page that gets updated from time to time.

However, in both instances, the control for activation of these services still lie with the respective companies and not their users. Sometimes, these also lead to criticism around bias and preference over activation of safety features. Hopefully, enabling users to activate the Safety Check feature will make the approach more transparent and swift for less popular locations across the globe.

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