Facebook Disaster Maps: Aggregate Insights for Crisis Response & Recovery

Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM)

By: Paige Maas, Shankar Iyer, Andreas Gros, Wonhee Park, Laura McGorman, Chaya Nayak, Alex Dow

Abstract

After a natural disaster or other crisis, humanitarian organizations need to know where affected people are located and what resources they need. While this information is difficult to capture quickly through conventional methods, aggregate usage patterns of social media apps like Facebook can help fill these information gaps.

In this paper, we describe the data and methodology that power Facebook Disaster Maps. These maps utilize information about Facebook usage in areas impacted by natural hazards, producing aggregate pictures of how the population is affected by and responding to the hazard. The maps include insights into evacuations, cell network connectivity, access to electricity, and long-term displacement.

In addition to descriptions and examples of each map type, we describe the source data used to generate the maps, and efforts taken to ensure the security and privacy of Facebook users. We also describe limitations of the current methodologies and opportunities for improvement.