Facebook announced a new feature this week called Safety Check, which can be used by users during natural disasters to inform friends and family that they’re safe.
Facebook engineers in Japan began working on the tool following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in 2011. They received positive feedback from Facebook for their efforts, and their Disaster Message Board has now been rebranded as Safety Check. It will soon be available to all Facebook users around the world on Android, iOS and desktop.
While Facebook’s concern for its users is commendable, there’s still something a touch creepy about how the site will check up on you. In the event of a disaster, Safety Check will automatically activate and send you a notification asking if you’re safe. Facebook can triangulate your location using multiple factors, including the city you have listed as your residence, where you last interacted with friends if you have geolocation features turned on, and even where you’ve been using the Internet in general. After Facebook gets in touch, you can select “Not in the area” or “I’m safe.” The tool will then create a News Feed story with your safety update.
As with any time Facebook does something automatically on behalf of users, Safety Check is bound to rankle some. But at least in this instance, the site’s somewhat invasive tool has its heart in the right place.