Google Person Finder has been heavily used since the Japan earthquake on March 11, and we’ve received several reports from users who have successfully reconnected with their friends and family. My teammates and I are glad that it’s been useful, and we’re grateful to everyone who has contributed to the project.
Today, there are over 600,000 records in Google Person Finder. As explained on the site, the data has always been publicly available to make it easier to find people you care about. We’ve found, however, that this kind of data is most useful immediately after a crisis and becomes less useful as time passes. Out of respect for our users, we don’t want to publish or keep this information longer than is necessary.
Starting today, Google Person Finder will support an expiry date on each record, as described in the PFIF 1.3 open standard. As part of this change, we are setting an expiry date of May 31, 2011 on all our existing records and deleting archived records from past launches. When you enter a new record in Google Person Finder, you can specify when you want it to expire. It will automatically disappear from Google Person Finder at that time, and it will be gone from our backups within 60 days thereafter. We are also requiring that everyone who uses the Google Person Finder API under our Terms of Service follow this same data retention policy.
At any time before a record expires, you can visit the record and click a button to extend its expiry date. We encourage you to provide an email address when you create a record so that we can send you a notice when the record expires. The notice will contain a link, valid for 3 days, that you can use to restore the record before it is permanently deleted.
We hope that you never experience a disaster; but, if you have been affected by one, we hope that Google Person Finder and the other Google Crisis Response tools have been helpful to you and your loved ones.