[Opinion] Google Person Finder, and the need for Silicon Valley to rediscover its heart



I wanted to break away from our normal posts to write about something a bit more important. As some of you might know, North India is currently reeling from devastating floods and landslides. The landslides have left around a thousand dead and over 60,000 stranded in desolate areas in the Himalayas, most of whom were tourists and pilgrims. And while the Army, Air Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Force, among other agencies, have worked hard to get people to camps, a large number of people are still stuck on their own, abandoning their vehicles and walking for days to the nearest habitable regions.

One of the biggest issues that arise in such circumstances is the inability to for those stranded to communicate with families and friends back home. That’s where I want to highlight the help received from Google and their Person Finder web application. The Person Finder application was first released in earnest after the Haiti earthquake of 2010 aiming to make it easy for different organizations to manage and share the data they have on missing people. Because of the critical role the app can play, a Crisis Response team was formed at Google with the aim to release subsequent versions as early as possible once calamity strikes.

Everything that has happened in the lat week or so over here put a few things in perspective for me regarding the entire tech industry, and has left me largely disappointed. We were supposed to be the good guys, those who put humanity first. We were supposed to be different from the investment bankers whose offences would result in thousands of innocent people struggling to put food on the table, from lawyers who would rescue a killer from his punishment yet sleep with a clear conscience, and from politicians who would say whatever they need to gain power.

Yet, in the last few years, we seem to have lost our way. Instead of focusing on making lives simpler, most of our attention seemed to have been spent in courts, fighting over who can and cannot release thin, rectangular, non-clunky devices or whether one can claim a copyright over an API. As a result, things like Person Finder seem like an anomaly, something worthy of headlines. We just aren’t used to tech companies helping out just for the sake of doing something good.

It is for this reason that I believe in Google. I might never use products like Project Loon, Person Finder and even Google Glass (which, in my opinion, could do wonders for the rescue operation teams over here currently). However, I want to root for them because they are breakthroughs that would actually impact lives, unlike reducing the size of desktop CPUs.

If there was one wish I had from Silicon Valley, it’s for them to have a heart again, and rediscover what first made the region such a hotbed of innovation: focusing on real problems.

Raveesh Bhalla

Design Love: Feedly

Previous article

HP Slate 21 AIO brings 21.5-inch Android tablet to your desktop

Next article

You may also like


  1. Great article. This shouldn’t only go for Google but other tech companies as well, tech is suppose to make life easier and it’s what every company should focus on.

    1. For the industry pioneers usually, yes. Once the MBA’s take over though, tech becomes solely about money.

      1. All too true, which is sad since competition only helps the consumers by one upping the the competitors, when if the sole purpose of each advancement was to make things better everyone would win.

      2. мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

        It’s also for each of us as part of this community to use these tools for blessing others and not for destruction.

  2. You know what would be great.. a worldwide cell phone standard so that all the tourists and visitors that could potentially be fine just by using that phone in their pocket wouldn’t have it inoperable because it either doesn’t support the technology in the area or the costs associated with enabling it are absurd. Not that cell phone coverage is 100% everywhere, but imagine being able to just use your phone wherever there is coverage without any restrictions.

    1. that is nice and all but we have differences because of cost… CDMA is much cheaper than GSM so that is why we have these differences, sure GSM is theoretically better but it costs more and some companies or even countries can’t afford it so they fell back to CDMA. fortunately most people are moving to LTE this time around

  3. It’s also for each of us as part of this community to use these tools for blessing others and not for destruction.

  4. Nice article. Sometimes we get caught up in petty sh*t and forget what is important and loose sight of the big picture.

  5. Great article. True statements. We must not lose hope BUT, never lose sight of reality.

  6. Great article to put a spit light on the issue. Dead toll is like far higher than 1000 reported. There thousands missing people that are not accounted for. So many places were slept away including temple, gurudwaras and other inn’ s along the pilgrim routes. Some places are burried in 12-15 feet of sands and sediments from flooding rivers.

  7. This is a pretty good article. It is very disappointing as I’ve noticed this trend the passed several years. At this rate, the tech industry will be the lobbyist we’ll have to worry most about.

  8. Talk is cheap. We have the ability to let these tech and all companies and businesses realize that human life is the greatest natural and financial resource. It is up to us to hold these big businesses accountable and liable, via choice.

  9. It’s cute how you’re all so young and naive

    1. Right on the money. First you all kids raise your own kids, and then you’ll see what’s important in life.
      Although caused by corporations, in many’s mind India and China raises nothing but a negative emotion, due to the labor market erosion here.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Opinion