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Person finder tool by Google

02 March 2010

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Google’s Person Finder is a searchable database for those who have information about someone, as well as those trying to locate a loved one. Available in both English and Spanish it enables one to browse the database or submit details about a missing person.

A note left for Pedro Patricio Valdivia Olivos — one of more than 48,000 records in Google’s Person Finder — offers a clear look into the anxiety faced by many with loved ones in Chile: “Hi, Dad. It’s your daughter Alicia. I’ve been looking for you for several days. I’m very worried for you. Please can you call me on my cellular … or send me a message. I’m waiting for word from you. Hugs.”


Google launched its Chile-specific tool Saturday to assist people looking for information on loved ones in Chile after a massive 8.8 earthquake shook the South-American nation. The death toll from the quake is estimated to be about 700, so it would seem that many of the people on Google looking for loved ones will find them. Still, the mostly Spanish posts in Google’s database are often painful, and seemingly unending.

Someone looking for Johana Ivana Correa says the girl “is 11 years old and was going with her mother and grandmother to Talca and Curico.” Another person writes that they are looking for information for the house at 1 Norte 103 in the Esmerelda neighborhood of Talcahuano:

“Please, whoever reads this note and can get to this address, send word of the status of the people who live in the house there: three adults, one elderly woman, three teenagers and two children.”

Other notes are more uplifting: “Mom and Dad are fine and they are still in El Yeco. They’ve contacted us via email and they are doing as best they can. Their house is still intact, and they had lost electricity for 12 hours, I am assuming they have it back.” And: “This person is fine. He wasn’t in his apartment but at a friend’s house.”

Given the number of entries, it is not immediately clear how many people are looking for news on loved ones and how many have information to offer. In a quick survey of the most recent 200 results in Google’s database, 79 were from people seeking information and 56 were from others reporting that they or someone they knew was alive. (In the rest, that portion of the form wasn’t filled out.)

Although the notes are public, they can’t be seen directly through Google’s tool unless you type in a name and get a match. But the database and source code behind the tool are accessible. As CNet news reported, Google doesn’t verify the information in its person finder, and it’s not clear how many people have been helped by the service.

The company says Google engineers built the application in less than 36 hours after the Haiti earthquake and translated the app into Spanish soon after the quake in Chile. The app is embedded on the State Department Web site, and Google is encouraging others to let people in Chile know about it.

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